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AALEAD MAC: A Fun Finale!

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Two weeks ago, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) students celebrated the end of the summer program by joining the elementary school students at Six Flags! Everyone was excited for this day after weeks of hard work. Our trip began with a bus ride, which was spent getting to know each other further through the game 20 Questions. We were asked our favorite movies and what fruit best describes us (turns out I’m a pomegranate!).

We finally got to the amusement park, and everyone was delighted it wasn’t raining. The weather was lovely, clear blue, and mild. After entering the amusement park, we made our way to our first ride, the Flying Carousel. Wanting more adventure, we set off towards the Renegade Rapids and were doused in water from head-to-toe. We then made our way to the final ride, the Wild One (it sure was wild!). It was finally time to leave, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

The last day of the AALEAD Transitions workshops was this past Wednesday. It was my last formal workshop with AALEAD as both a student and intern. We began the session with our middle and high school students engaging in a dialogue about diversity and identity with Ari, one of our Elementary School Program teachers. We continued this discussion with a Step In, Step Out circle where students continued building relationships with one another and learning more about each other’s personalities.

After a brief break, the MAC youth held their final workshop with the elementary students. The topics of the day included diversity and an overall reflection on the AALEAD Transitions summer workshops. The activity we participated in was a game where students talked to each other and compared similarities and differences. The objective was to teach the youth that even though it is easy to spot differences between people from different backgrounds, the similarities between people are just as important and are what can bring people together. Lastly, we moved on to the reflection portion of the workshop where students illustrated their most memorable MAC moments throughout the summer. It truly was a special day for me as it was the last workshop that I facilitated with the students, and it was amazing.

My Meeting with Mayor Gray!

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of DC Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA)

Last week, Surjeet Ahluwalia, Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Executive Director, and I met with Vincent Gray, Washington DC’s Mayor. I previously asked President Obama his opinion on DC statehood, and the exchange was featured in the press with dozens of articles and broadcasts. Our meeting came about through the increased publicity of DC statehood and with the help of Julie Koo, Executive Director of the DC Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA). I was extremely nervous when I arrived at the Wilson Building. I felt that it was going to be a great meeting and with a deep confident breath, I entered the Mayor’s office. I was greeted by Julie and the Mayor’s personal staff. After a brief wait, I finally met with the Mayor. We sat down in Mayor Gray’s office and began the meeting talking about my interests in DC politics and current events involving the city. After voicing my opinions on DC statehood, we chatted about our personal connections to the city and how we both shared similar visions for the city. It was a great honor to be able to speak to the Mayor about issues that concern me. I would like to say thank you to the Mayor for allowing me the time to speak with him, Julie Koo for helping to set up the meeting, and Surjeet and AALEAD for helping me build my confidence to engage in a dialogue with the President and Mayor and speak freely about my personal opinions.

AALEAD MAC Visits the Capitol!

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Last week, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) had a wonderful opportunity to visit the United States Capitol. It was a sweltering day (the hottest day of the week!), but we decided to brave the weather and followed through with our plans. The students met at Thomson Elementary and made our way to the Capitol. Along the way, we passed important federal buildings such as the United States Department of Justice.

We finally arrived at the Capitol Visitor’s Center and met up with the DC youth from Columbia Heights as well as our volunteer and tour guide, David. David works on the Hill as a Legislative Correspondent and was kind enough to give us a tour of the Capitol. After brief introductions between David and the youth, we made our way to see the Crypt. Everyone was fascinated with George Washington’s tomb and the statues of famous historical figures from the thirteen original colonies.

We then ventured over to the Capitol Rotunda and were in absolute awe as we learned about the history of the United States through the eyes of various artists and sculptors. Other areas we had the opportunity to check out were the Old Senate Chamber, Old House of Representatives, and the Old Supreme Court. Visiting these rooms was especially great because we got to learn interesting facts, such as understanding more about what “passing the bar” means. We even got to see paw prints from the infamous “ghost cat” and found the secret spot where people can hear conversations from 30 feet away!

After the tour was over, we made our way to the Hart Senate Building by train. This was a really cool experience since none of us knew that these underground trains even existed! David invited us into his office and told us more about his career path and how he became interested in working for Congress. All of the students had insightful thoughts to share with David as they voiced their opinions on important issues around the world and why they matter to them.

We are so proud of all of the students that participated and can’t wait to celebrate all of the awesome memories that we have shared over the summer this week. A special thank you to David for helping us organize the tour of the Capitol and for taking the time to meet with us and answer our questions! Until next time, everyone – see you soon!

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Surjeet Ahluwalia, AALEAD Executive Director

**Check out the video on this White House link at 38:29 to see Bhadon ask his question to the President!

Bhadon is a former student and current Mentoring Program Intern. We are so proud of him and hope you enjoy hearing about his experience at President Obama’s Town Hall on the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative!

Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the President’s Town Hall on the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. The day started off with warm welcomes and introductions between my fellow AALEADers and me. We made our way towards the Walker-Jones Education Campus, where the event was held. With everyone looking their best, it definitely was a fashionable event. After a brief wait in the security line, we made our way to our seats.

The first part of the event included a panel discussion between a student, a Board of Education member, Randall L. Stephenson (the CEO of AT&T), and James H. Shelton, III (the Deputy Secretary of Education). The panel was very insightful and focused on issues which are currently plaguing students from California to DC. After the endorsement of the initiative from NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, we took a brief break. After the intermission, Chris Paul, an NBA player for the Los Angeles Clippers, came out to introduce President Obama. The President then talked about his plans for success for men of color and also shared his hopes that this initiative would be adopted across the country.

When the President was done with his speech, he opened up the floor for questions from the audience. I thought about asking him a question, but was very nervous. After a few questions were asked, I worked up enough courage to raise my hand. He turned around, looked me in my eyes, and pointed to me while saying, “The young man in the corner with the glasses.” I was in disbelief and had a million thoughts running through my head. As a proud Washingtonian, I asked him a question about a topic that means a lot to me: statehood for the District of Columbia. He immediately smiled his iconic smile and responded with: “I’m in DC. So I am for it.”

With a smile on my face for the rest of the event, I was greeted by strangers that thanked me for asking my question and for representing DC. It truly was one of my best and favorite moments as an AALEADer, and I am so thankful that I was able to attend this great event.

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Every Wednesday, the middle and high school youth in Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) meet with our rising 6th graders to discuss various topics and issues that they may encounter as they transition into middle school. Two weeks ago, AALEADers met for the very first time and participated in fun team-building activities while learning more about leadership. Read more about the first MAC Transition workshop here!

Last week, AALEADers came together to learn more about the various academic resources offered in middle school. After getting together in small groups, they shared what they think it means to be successful in school and in life. Each group was then given a scenario about a student who was dealing with different challenges in school. They all had to make up a skit about what resources the student should use and how the student could actively participate in finding a solution for his/her problems. The creativity was definitely flowing as AALEADers worked together on their scripts and eventually performed their imaginative, yet pragmatic plays! Youth then reconvened as a larger group to discuss strategies for time management and having more independence in middle school. Our younger students really look up to their older peers who have been doing a great job mentoring them and answering all of their questions.

Yesterday, AALEAD youth talked about what diversity means to them. Students shared insightful thoughts and began to open up as they discussed different qualities that make people unique and why it’s important to be accepting of others, regardless of their backgrounds. Youth were then given a scenario about a new student at school who was made fun of because he/she was different, and all of the groups had to come up with skits and solutions. As each group performed their plays, they all touched on different resources that were discussed last week. When it came time for the group discussion, all of the younger students understood why diversity is important in our world today and knew exactly who they should go to for help. The older AALEAD youth were especially proud of the younger students as they have already learned so much since the first session!

The AALEAD MAC Transition workshops have played a significant role in encouraging our youth to step up to the plate and become leaders not only within AALEAD, but their own lives as well. The workshops have served as a safe space for youth to express their opinions and learn from their peers in a meaningful way. We look forward to spending more time with the MAC students over the rest of the summer and can’t wait to see them grow even more!

Leadership: A Step-by-Step Process

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Last Wednesday,  the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council’s (MAC) Transition workshops took place for the very first time! The AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will be happening every Wednesday and are intended for students that are graduating from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school. Since transitions from and into different school settings can take time for adjustment, these workshops will help support AALEAD youth in becoming more acquainted with the resources available at their schools and provide tips on how to deal with various issues. Some of the topics the AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will be focusing on include leadership, bullying, peer pressure,  time management, and independence. By participating in these workshops, AALEAD’s rising 6th and 9th graders will not only have a head start on their future academic pursuits, but they will also have the opportunity to  share insights and develop leadership skills as they help mentor their peers.

The afternoon kicked off with our middle and high school youth. After a round of introductions, we played games such as Human Knot and also participated in a relay race that was centered on team building, communication, and leadership. After everyone had the chance to get to know each other, we had a discussion on the values of leadership and teamwork. Our AALEAD youth had wonderful thoughts to share as they talked about who their role models are and what qualities they think leaders have.

Next came the workshop with the transitioning elementary school students. After youth were introduced to each other, groups were split up into teams where the middle and high school youth were all paired with some elementary school students. The first activity everyone participated in was the Desert Island where groups all named and created their own desert island. Each team also had to think of three items they would bring on the island. AALEAD youth had so many creative and interesting answers! From beds to survival guides, the students thought of it all and were super excited to share their thoughts.

During the last activity of the day, students stood in a leadership line, and they talked about different aspects of leadership and gauged what levels of leadership they were comfortable with. Similarly to the middle and high school students, elementary school youth also participated in an insightful conversation on the qualities of a good leader with their teams and then with the larger group. As students began to understand more about leadership and the topics that the the AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will cover, they all became eager and ready to learn more.

We are so excited for the rest of the summer and look forward to our next workshop!

By Bhadon Shalakin & Tina Ngo, Mentoring Program Intern & Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Interns & Staff

This past Saturday, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Program held our 2nd Annual Mentoring Program Scavenger Hunt. Mentors and mentees were first invited to a potluck where there was a variety of food ranging from Subway sandwiches to pasta salads and sweet and colorful cupcakes. Unfortunately, there was a 50/50 chance that we would have to cancel the event due to inclement weather. Luckily for us, there was no rain, and the scavenger hunt was on! After all of the mentoring pairs had the chance to chow down and meet with other pairs in the program, it was time for the main event. The pairs were all split into teams of four, and off they were! The scavenger hunt had officially begun.

All of the groups were tasked with figuring out the answers to nine different clues within one hour. They would then have to take pictures or videos near the locations involving those clues to explain or demonstrate different aspects of AALEAD’s three outcomes: leadership, identity, and educational empowerment. Since the teams had the option of choosing which clues to start with first, some groups began their search around Meridian Hill Park while others immediately ran to the U Street Corridor.

At the end of the hour, all of the teams rushed back to the AALEAD DC office to see which group would reign supreme. All of the pairs relaxed and mingled as team by team went inside the conference room to discuss their findings with the judges, Bhadon and Tina. After a suspenseful 15 minutes, it was finally time to announce the victors! As the champions stepped up to claim their prizes, everyone found out that they were all winners. No one left empty-handed as the scavenger hunt was a victory for everyone; we all made new friendships and bonded over our shared commonalities and interests.

Events like the scavenger hunt are a wonderful opportunity to not only make new friends, but also learn a lot about ourselves and our community along the way. Sprinkled with lots of fun, laughter, and cheer, the 2nd Annual Mentoring Program Scavenger Hunt was truly a success! Many thanks to all of the mentors and mentees who participated as well as Heein, our Development and Communications Intern, who helped us document the entire event. We hope you all had a blast and can’t wait to see what else this summer has in store for us! See you soon!

Fiesta Asia Planning & Prep!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Taken By Melor Suhaimi

This past Saturday, MD Middle School youth from AALEAD’s Middle School Youth Council and MD High School youth took part in preparing for Fiesta Asia!  Hosted by Asia Heritage Foundation, Fiesta Asia is a street fair celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage month located in our Nation’s capital.  For the past few years, AALEAD youth has attended and performed at the street fair.  With street vendors lined up along the streets, performances happening all day, and the smell of delicious Asian cuisine in the air, AALEAD youth could not be any more excited to attend this year’s Fiesta Asia!

Marking AALEAD’s MD Middle School’s fourth Youth Council meeting on this past Saturday, AALEAD youth worked hard in all the planning and preparation for Fiesta Asia’s upcoming event happening this Saturday, May 17th.  Youth split into small groups and were designated to one of three work stations.  The first station involved the making of AALEAD banners for the AALEAD booth and parade.  At the second station, youth brainstormed and worked together in creating a trivia wheel that will be at the AALEAD booth to attract guests to come and learn more about AALEAD.  Lastly, at the third station, youth researched questions and answers for the trivia wheel.  AALEAD youth also folded brochures that will be placed at AALEAD’s booth to give more information about our organization.  Fiesta Asia guests who play the trivia wheel will have to answer questions and test their knowledge about different Asian countries.  Lucky winners will win special prizes!

All these ideas were made by MD’s Middle School Youth Council and it will be exciting to see the final products on the day of Fiesta Asia.  With the end of the 2013 – 2014 school year coming to an end, Fiesta Asia will be one of the last few events that a lot of our AALEAD youth will get to spend time together before summer vacation!  Here are a few pictures from Saturday’s planning day at MD Middle School’s fourth Youth Council meeting:

If YOU are interested in seeing all the final products and watching AALEAD’s dance performance, make sure to come out this Saturday, May 17th to Fiesta Asia!  AALEAD’s dance performance will be at 10:15am and will take place at The East Stage (located closest to 3rd St., NW.)  Our AALEAD youth worked really hard with all the planning and practiced (and are still practicing!) for their dance performance.  AALEAD youth will be looking forward to seeing YOU at Fiesta Asia!

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.