Feedback

Blog

Tag Archive: Leadership


Thomson Tales: AALEAD Flea Market

By Justin Fogata, Elementary Program Teacher
Photos Courtesy of Justin Fogata

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which [youth can] deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”  -Paulo Freire

The 4th and 5th grade youth at Thomson Elementary recently launched their first AALEAD Flea Market.  Throughout the school year, the youth have been directly involved in the lesson planning process in an effort to encourage ownership and empowerment in their education.  After brainstorming potential experiential classroom projects, the youth mentioned their interest in starting their own businesses.  This educational venture was more than just “playing store.”  Youth split into groups and discussed the potential steps for a successful start-up business.

For the past month, the class has been hard at work; from drafting business plans to organizing inventory lists and item prices.  To tie in the concept of “one’s trash is another’s treasure,” the youth also had the opportunity to find items from home to sell in their stores. “XTSD” (Xtreme Thrift Store Deluxe), a business led by 4th graders, added toys in good condition, school supplies and comic books to their “inventory list.”  A few groups incorporated our “Earth Week” unit into their businesses, creating sellable items out of recycled materials.  “Tic Toc Shop,” established by 5th grade girls, created hand-made origami crafts, necklaces and bracelets.  “The Sugar Shack,” a business developed by a creative and resourceful group of 4th graders, brought candies and treats left over from Easter to sell in their store.  Youth assigned job responsibilities as well, including positions such as store manager, accountant, marketing executive and customer service representative.

Lisa is her store’s “accountant” – she is writing
receipts and calculating the change for Ricky.

“Marketing executives” were hard at work, creating and designing fliers on the AALEAD class computers.  Student accountants determined prices and monitored the store budget.  Customer service representatives practiced elevator speeches and sale pitches to prepare for opening day. For our official opening, the youth transformed the classroom.  Groups arranged the desks and incorporated student-made store decorations/fliers to create a true-to-life shopping experience for our 2nd and 3rd graders.  The AALEAD Flea Market ended up being a huge success.  The 2nd and 3rd graders had a blast “window shopping” and purchasing items.  The 4th and 5th graders did an amazing job, from keeping their stores clean and organized to providing excellent customer service.

Once we closed shop, our youth debriefed and reflected on their experience.  The class did not expect it to “feel like the real-thing,” and one student added “that was stressful but fun too!”  Groups felt accomplished and proud of their work, the majority of the class asking if we can open our doors one more time.  On a future Friday, the 4th and 5th graders will open and expand their business to the Kindergarten and 1st grade classes.  Youth are currently revamping their business plans and brainstorming on how to make AALEAD Flea Market 2.0 bigger and better.

AALEADers Meet with Varun Ram!

By Sharon Choi & Chelsea Iorlano, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Last Friday, May 8, AALEADers had an amazing opportunity to meet with the University of Maryland Men’s Basketball Team’s Varun Ram. Varun, a guard for the Maryland Terps, received media attention during the NCAA Tournament in March where he made a crucial defensive play, allowing the team to make a 65-62 win against Valparaiso. While he has received attention for being 1 of 5 Indian Americans in the nation to play for a Division 1 basketball team, Varun said in a Washington Post article that “…in terms of the way I train and my outlook, I really don’t like to think about it. Race is only skin-deep.”

We were inspired by his story and journey as a basketball player who overcame the challenges and pressures of being Asian American as he pursued his dreams. Many of us are able to relate to the challenges that come with the model minority stereotype cast against Asian Pacific Americans. With May being National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this event provided an opportunity to examine and discuss how Asian Pacific American identity and representation in basketball has impacted Varun’s experience.

AALEAD youth learned about Varun during programs and had a chance to submit questions for a question and answer session during the event on Friday. Varun was able to share his experiences and give the youth valuable insight about working hard, setting high standards and expectations for oneself, regardless of what the outside pressures and expectations may be, and staying motivated and passionate along the way.

Everyone was excited to hear from Varun, who emanated positivity and humility. Youth also had a chance to shoot hoops with Varun and a fellow teammate, center Damonte Dodd, following the Q&A session right on the Xfinity Center Court!  The event allowed our youth to interact with someone that they can look up to as a role model and inspiration for how to pursue their own dreams without other people’s perceptions or expectations limiting what our youth can dream for their futures.

A special thank you to Varun, Damonte, Jamal, and Jonathan from the UMD basketball team, Janelle and UMD’s Asian American Studies Program, and our alumni hosts Marjan and Jackey, for helping to make this event a success for our young people!

By Madeline Sumida, Elementary Program Teacher & Site Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Madeline Sumida

The Bancroft Kindergarten through second grade crew learned that the smallest creatures do some of the most important jobs on the planet. We kicked off the unit with an April Fools Day gag. I taught a mini lesson on earthworms—how these animals help make good soil by ingesting soil and enriching the soil with their excrement. Then I brought out some little cups filled with dirt and told the class that they would pretend to be earthworms by eating it (dirt, after all, has more nutrients than your average bag of potato chips). Youth dug in after getting a good sniff of the “dirt”—it smelled a lot like Oreos—and enjoyed the spoonfuls of yogurt and gummy worms hidden beneath the cookie crust.

Youth also learned about honeybees and their essential role as pollinators. Without these little gals, we wouldn’t have enough food to feed all the hungry animals. Herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, detritivores—all depend on honey bees (a keystone species) to help plants produce the seeds that keep things growing. The class learned that honeybees are in danger: they’re dying off for mysterious reasons and because of predators, parasites, and habitat destruction. Youth learned the round dance and the waggle dance that bees use to communicate to their hive members where to find food. To test their knowledge, the class divided into teams to play Bee Bingo. Finally, youth made their own little hives, made out of paper boxes that they covered with honeybee facts, and sculpted honeybees out of clay. Youth wore their finished bees to remind everyone that these tiny creatures are capable of amazing things and deserve all the respect and help that we can give them.

By Yuqiong L., Current AALEAD Youth
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

At the end of last month, I went on the White House Spring Garden Tour and visited the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, the White House Kitchen Garden, and the South Lawn of the White House with two other Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) mentoring pairs. The gardens were very pretty and huge! I used to think the White House was small, but now, I know the White House isn’t small at all. The first thing I saw was the back of the White House and the podium where President Obama makes his speeches about important topics in the United States. It was awesome to see the gardens at the White House!

What I liked most about the White House gardens was the porcelain water, especially how it goes up in the fountains and the ducks that live in the pond. It’s so pretty and gorgeous! President Obama also planted vegetables in the White House Kitchen Garden so he can make salad. It was really fun to be out during that weekend since the weather was awesome and nice. I’m glad I got to spend the day with my mentor, Nancy, and the other mentors and mentees.

My experience with my mentor has been great so far. We have been matched for three months. Nancy is really nice, friendly and helpful. During this event with AALEAD’s Mentoring Program, I got to know her better and spend time with her. It was really hard for me to talk with Nancy at first because we just met. Lots of things were very different since I have had one other mentor before, but I am getting to know her better and better as time goes on. I also like that Nancy knows Cantonese because it helps my parents when they try to speak with her. Nancy always hangs out with me, and we have lots in common. She has taught me a lot about leadership skills and shared her own life with me. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go on the White House Spring Garden Tour, hang out with my mentor, and meet some new AALEADers during this event. I am also thankful for both my former mentor and Nancy because without them, I wouldn’t be a great leader now.

DC Park Clean-up: Doing Our Share

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

This past Saturday, DC AALEAD youth, mentors, volunteers, staff, and our friends at CAPAL (Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership) participated in the Rock Creek Conservancy’s 7th Annual Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup at Piney Branch-Crestwood Park. It was a gorgeous day to be outside and kick off the start of spring! Our youth had lots of fun as they helped clean up the park while interacting with other volunteers and community members.

The event began with a short introduction and orientation from our site coordinator. Everyone was excited to see that lots of trees had been planted since we were here last year! Youth then gathered their clean-up materials (gloves, trash bags, and recycling bags) and broke off into teams, where they explored the short stretch of Rock Creek Park we were assigned. As AALEADers cleaned their way around the park, they discovered lots of interesting items throughout the morning, such as a bicycle tire, various articles of clothing, and even a deer skull! Youth also made it a point to separate trash from recyclables as they made their impressive findings.

Though our clean-up team was only at the park for about 2.5 hours, the grassy area that AALEADers helped clean was spotless by the time everyone was done! After youth collected all of the trash and recycling bags into piles along the road, it was time to replenish their energy. AALEADers snacked on crackers, fruit snacks, juice, and water while spending time with youth from other DC programs, mentors, volunteers, and staff.

The annual DC Park Clean-up is a great opportunity for AALEAD youth to not only learn about the importance of giving back to the community, but also, the significance of teamwork and building relationships with one another. Additionally, youth develop goals with their teams on how many items or trash bags they want to collect, helping them learn more about setting goals and accomplishing them as well.

Many thanks to all of our youth, mentors, volunteers, and staff who participated in this year’s clean-up! A special thank you to our friends at CAPAL who joined us for the third year in a row and provided the snacks for our youth as well as Doug Barker, Matthew Fleischer, and Karen Zeiter from the Rock Creek Conservancy for helping us coordinate the event and turning our plans into actions. We all had a wonderful time and look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Gifts for the Homeless Clothing Drive

By Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

In the United States, 2.5 million children under 18 years old were homeless in 2013, according to a new report, “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” published by the National Center on Family Homelessness. To put that number into perspective, it means 1 in every 30 children is homeless. The most prevalent causes of homelessness include high rates of child and family poverty, the lack of affordable housing, continuing impacts of the Great Recession, racial/ethnic disparities among people experiencing homelessness, challenges of single parenting, and trauma. This statistic is a historic high for the nation, and a jarring reminder of the wealth, health, and ethno-racial disparities in America. How does this affect your communities, and how can you help?

This past weekend, AALEAD MD High School and Middle School youth spent their Saturday volunteering at Gifts for the Homeless’ annual clothing drive. Gifts for the Homeless, a nonprofit in the District of Columbia, collects donated new and used clothing and other essential items to distribute to over 70 shelters in the area. Twenty-six AALEAD youth, along with Gifts for the Homeless staff and other volunteers, helped sort clothing for distribution. AALEAD youth remained behind after the clothes sorting to clean the warehouse and help with recycling efforts.

After AALEAD youth finished their volunteer shift for the day, they participated in a reflection about their volunteerism and homelessness. The youth provided insightful answers and thoughts about the causes of homelessness, challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness, and their own positions and relative privileges. We are proud of AALEAD youth and their continuous commitment to giving back to the community by volunteering their time, not only during the holidays, but all throughout the year.

As the winter holidays approach and the temperatures continue to plummet, please take the time to reflect on your own position in this community and identify how you can support those in need. Whether you donate essential items like coats and toiletries, money, food, or even your time, every contribution helps.

To learn more about youth homelessness in America and download the report, visit www.homelesschildrenamerica.org.

To learn more about Gifts for the Homeless and how you can help, visit www.gfth.org.

AALEADers at Terrapinoy Day!

By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photos By Filipino Cultural Association of the University of Maryland

This past Saturday, AALEADers participated in Terrapinoy Day, an annual exploration of identity, culture, and leadership for middle and high school students hosted by the University of Maryland’s Filipino Cultural Association (FCA). AALEAD was represented by four high school and three middle school youth who boldly engaged in workshops on cultural identity exploration, leadership skills, and deciding careers. The AALEADers stepped up to the challenging materials with excitement, creating a space of sharing, learning, and community between all students in attendance.

Youth participated in a leadership workshop where they identified and modeled the qualities of a good leader. After a generative conversation on positive leadership qualities, youth developed and performed skits exemplifying good leadership. While the responsibility of leadership can sometimes feel intimidating, participants were able to recontextualize every day experiences into leadership opportunities. Youth came away understanding that they could be the one person who is able to make the necessary difference in a situation. Even while groups created their skits, they were practicing the leadership skills they learned, supporting each other, making sure all voices were heard, and encouraging each other to step into the spotlight.

During the Culture and Identity workshop, youth navigated questions of personal identity with the support of their peers. Facilitators read statements about culture to which participants would answer by standing in the designated “strongly agree, “ “agree,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree” areas of the room. At this point, youth made connections within their small discussion groups, sharing their experiences and reasons to statements like “I feel that people understand and value my culture.” This activity provided a venue to work through questions of individual identity within a supportive and safe environment. One AALEAD youth reflected, “I’ve never actually thought about those questions before, and they are really hard questions which I’m going to be thinking about more now.”

In the Deciding Careers workshop, youth explored the possibilities and dreams of their futures. “Draw a picture of your life twenty years from now,” one workshop facilitator instructed as they passed out paper to each youth. The room went silent as everyone fell deep into thought about their best life imaginable. Afterwards, each person shared their images depicting their goals, ambitions and passions. Many of the college-aged volunteers also shared their own experiences and imparted the understanding that failure, hard work, and commitment to a goal are a part of the process of achieving your dreams. AALEADers asked the college students questions about their experiences, connecting with their older counterparts and finding role models that overcame challenges similar to their own.  This was a memorable experience for our AALEADers to share their stories in a college setting with their own peers and college peers.


By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

This past Saturday, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Program held our first ever Bowling Social! Ten of our mentoring pairs gathered at Lucky Strike DC for an afternoon filled with fun, food, and friendship. After introductions were made, youth and mentors laced up their bowling shoes and put their game faces on; it was finally time to begin!

As pairs walked towards their respective lanes, they also engaged in some friendly, competitive banter. Youth enthusiastically praised their mentors’ skills to their peers, while mentors were eager and excited to share a favorite pastime with their mentees (some of whom have never been bowling before!). As mentors helped youth enter their names onto the screens, some pairs set goals for the scores that they wanted to achieve, while others excitedly caught up on each other’s lives.

After about an hour or so of bowling, mentoring pairs regained their energy by chowing down on yummy snacks such as chicken tenders, mac and cheese bites, chips and salsa, and pretzel sticks! Students were eager to begin bowling again after the break and even began to cheer on their fellow mentor-mentee pairs each time someone bowled a spare or a strike. As the Bowling Social came to an end, a strong sense of community could definitely be felt as pairs enjoyed one another’s company and continued to build on each other’s strengths and skills.

Events such as the Bowling Social serve as a great opportunity to not only team build, but also teach our youth that leadership can be comprised of a multitude of things. Sometimes being a leader means speaking in public or leading a larger group, but being a leader can also mean: trying something (like bowling) that you’ve never done before, being persistent and patient when you are learning something new (like bowling) for the first time, or even encouraging and cheering on your fellow peers.

We had an awesome time kicking off the new school year at Lucky Strike DC and look forward to what the rest of the year has in store for all of us. Thanks to all of the mentor-mentee pairs who participated — hope you had a blast and can’t wait to see all of you again soon!

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.