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By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff and Students

This past weekend AALEAD High School Students participated in one the most historic events involving Asian American college youth, the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference. You may have heard about AALEAD participating in ECAASU last year, where we brought a few of our AALEAD youth to New York City to participate in the Conference at Columbia University.  This year, the ECAASU Conference was hosted by a group of colleges in the Washington D.C. area and had over 1,000 attendees registered!

So why was this year so special for our students?

This year we had AALEAD students represented in several different aspects of this Conference. From volunteers, to participants, to members of the National Board, it was truly great to see our youth engaged in different levels. We even ran into AALEAD Alumni at the Conference!  On the volunteer side, 13 AALEAD youth, participated and assisted ECAASU Directors with various tasks. They helped set up for workshops, assisted with crowd control, distributed lunches to attendees, and even helped sell some t-shirts. On the participant side, 4 AALEAD youth were represented in ECAASU’s newly launched High School Leadership Ambassadors Program where they are able to connect with other Asian American youth from New York and discuss Asian American issues. And finally, we had one AALEAD student represented on the ECAASU National Board who had been working so very hard with the ECAASU Directors to make this conference possible.

As I watched the students engage with facilitators, speakers, and other college students, it was truly remarkable to watch our students take full advantage of the opportunity and begin to fit in with the crowd.  We had two main goals for this field trip: 1. Give AALEAD students the opportunity to experience College Student Leadership, and 2. Allow students to process and reflect on how they can take this experience back to plan their Annual Summer APA Youth Summit.

In the morning, I challenged each of the students to at least chat with some of the workshop facilitators and to get their contact information in-case we wanted to invite them to the Youth Summit. Each student participated in one workshop and included topics such as the Bamboo Ceiling, Asian Americans and Law, Mental Health, Leadership, Passions vs. Career, Hepatitis B, and Asian American Identity.  I’m proud to say that every AALEAD student spoke to a facilitator and over half of our students asked and received business cards!

Out of the 18 students that attended ECAASU, 15 students had never attended an Asian American conference of this magnitude. Majority of these young students are sophomores, very quiet, come from immigrant families, and are only beginning to scrape the surface of their leadership potential. Our hope is that with opportunities like this and more experiential learning, students will become more exposed, inspired, and will attain some important skills that will make them successful students, leaders, and ultimately better people.

Special thank you to the 2014 ECAASU Conference Committee, especially Christina Bui, Annie and Bonnie Yan, Aneena Sin, and Linh Tran, for being so hospitable to our high school youth and for making this conference possible! You ladies rock!

On a warm sunny day like this, I think a jumping photo is in order to celebrate the success of the 2014 ECAASU Conference, Washington D.C.

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

In honor of Martin Luther King’s Birthday, students in the AALEAD HS Program reflected on the Civil Rights Movement and what Martin Luther King’s dream meant for the people of the United States. Students participated in a timeline activity and were able to learn more about what happened in the 1960s for Asian Americans, and boy were they surprised! From Yuri Kochiyama to the Immmigration Act of 1965 to fighting for Ethnic Studies programs, the 1960s were full of events directly affecting and including Asian Americans.  Here is what one of our students had to say about the activity:

“It was a usual school day and the last period of the bell rang. I met up with my best friend and we headed to the room where AALEAD would be held. Our topic that day was the Civil Rights Movement and Asians. We were told to stand under a year which represented when our parents were born. Francine told us [to imagine what life was like when] all of this was going on and I was pretty surprised because I had never thought about it.  I learned a lot about the people from my continent that school doesn’t teach! I learned so much in such a short amount of time. What angers me is the fact I don’t get to learn about Asians in the Civil Rights Movement [in school]. Asians are [part of American] history. They were there and they should be acknowledged.”

Students were then asked, “Imagine that it’s the 1960s and you are surrounded by people who want to create change. What are some things you would want to change with the help of your peers?” Students talked about the challenges of bullying and how mental health is becoming an issue for many of their peers. They said that many students struggle with depression and stress, but rarely seek help or tell their friends. Students also wanted to change the college admissions process and wished that more opportunities could be given to students to attend 4 year universities. It was great to see our students come alive through learning about Asian American history. They even wanted to learn more! Activities like this truly help our students to think critically not only about Education & History, but also about their own personal identities, values, and beliefs.

So a lot of people have heard about our Maryland AALEAD Youth Council, and a lot of people have been wondering “What is the Maryland AALEAD Youth Council?” Our Maryland AALEAD Youth Council is a student council elected by other AALEAD students consisting of positions such as President, Vice President, Secretary, Historians, Treasurer, and a representative from each school AALEAD collaborates with. We, as a council, help decide the events that we’re going to have and help coordinate how it’s going to happen with the help of the AALEAD staff. We also collaborate with the DC AALEAD Youth Council to see how both high school programs can come together for events and special projects. Our youth council is a great way for students to get more involved in AALEAD and to see how hard it is to actually host an event. If you are an active AALEAD member I encourage you to run for a spot in the AALEAD Youth Council next year. And if you’re not a member of AALEAD then I encourage you to sign up!

Written by: Maryland AALEAD Youth Council Historian, Sabrina