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

This past Saturday, 14 of our mentoring pairs went ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. Despite the cold temperatures outside, all of our mentoring pairs had bright smiles on their faces and contributed to the warm energy felt by everyone. A joyous mix of jitters and laughter permeated the atmosphere as Mentors helped their Mentees lace up their skates.

After watching the ice resurfacer make its rounds around the rink, Mentors and Mentees were finally ready to hit the ice! Some pairs showed off their slick moves by gliding across the ice and striking notable poses. Other students held on tightly to their Mentors’ hands as they learned how to ice skate for the very first time.

Over the course of the session, pairs had the opportunity to meet new faces, catch up with old friends, and enjoy one another’s company. As the last hour of the event drew near, all of our pairs gathered together for a group photo on the ice. At that very moment, snow flurries fluttered down for the first time that day, making for the perfect backdrop and creating lasting, magical memories for all.

Our annual Mentoring Ice Skating is an event that our pairs and staff look forward to year after year. Not only has the occasion become an enjoyable tradition, but it also allows for pairs to continue building upon their mentorships and have fun with other mentoring pairs along the way.

Many thanks to all of the Mentors and Mentees who braved the chilly weather and joined us at the rink this year! We hope you had a blast and can’t wait until next year’s event!

Mentoring Matters: Kamya’s Thoughts

By Kamya Khanna, Current AALEAD Mentor
Photos Courtesy of Kamya Khanna, Current AALEAD Mentor

As the end of National Mentoring Month draws near, we wanted to share Kamya’s story and the experience that she has had with AALEAD’s Mentoring Program. Thank you to all of our Mentors – we are extremely grateful for you and continue to be inspired by you and your dedication every single day. We hope you enjoy Kamya’s story, and Happy National Mentoring Month! -Tina Ngo, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

As an undergraduate student, I spent a semester studying language and culture in Shanghai. Once I returned to the United States, I wanted to seek volunteering opportunities that would let me stay connected with Chinese culture. Since I also enjoy working with youth, I found my way to AALEAD, which provided a fantastic opportunity to get involved in DC’s Asian American community and hopefully make a positive contribution. So, in 2012, I decided to sign up as a Mentor.

Before meeting my Mentee for the first time, I was very nervous. Would it be difficult to make conversation with her? Would I have any useful guidance to share with a teenager? Would she trust me? Would I be able to set a good example for a young girl? When we finally met, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was immediately talkative and excited to make a new connection. Thanks to her friendly demeanor, it did not take long for the two of us to find a comfortable rhythm with each other. Within a few weeks, I got to know all about her favorite school subjects, her friends from her hometown, her family, and her favorite kinds of music.

AALEAD has made it possible for us to continue making great memories together, such as participating in local community service projects and park clean-ups, ice-skating, and even visiting the White House to admire Christmas decorations. Separately, my Mentee and I have formed a solid bond during outings to DC’s art museums, visits to local outdoor markets, homework help sessions, and frequent Skype calls. We have attended cultural events where my Mentee has been able to teach me about Chinese New Year traditions, and in turn I have taken her to cultural functions that have taught her about my Indian heritage. Most importantly, we have reached a place where she is comfortable sharing with me any worries or dilemmas that she is confronting.

Over the past two years, I have aimed to guide my Mentee through her recent transition to high school, navigating the highs and lows of making new friends, being involved in the school community and balancing an ever-increasing workload. As she has opened up to me about her hopes and fears in this new chapter of her life, I am proud to have been able to be an effective listener who is present when she needs to vent frustrations, but also able to relate my own experiences in a way that might help her. I am especially proud of my Mentee and how she has remained a hard-working, well-liked, and fun-loving high schooler.

I have learned that being a good Mentor isn’t necessarily the same thing as having the perfect advice for any situation. Instead, what it really means to me is being available whenever my Mentee needs me. I do not need to have all of the answers to my Mentee’s problems, but I do need to have the willingness to spend time understanding her thoughts and problems so that I may guide her to resources that may be helpful. The mentoring experience has proved to be very rewarding. It has allowed me not only to gain confidence in my own skills as a leader in this way, but it has also allowed me to feel that I am indeed setting a positive example for a wonderful young girl, who will surely continue to blossom.

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

One of the best things about the beginning of a brand new year is coming up with goals and resolutions for the future, but also remembering all of the achievements that were accomplished during the previous year and recognizing those who helped you along the way.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, AALEAD celebrates all of our amazing mentors and their commitment to and impact on our youth. To date, we currently have 55 pairs matched across both DC and Maryland. Though some of our pairs have just begun their journeys and others have been matched for a record amount of time, we are so grateful for the opportunity to witness and be a part of each mentee-mentor pair’s growth together. Our Mentors have all played a pivotal role in the personal and educational development of our youth, and we appreciate their kindness and willingness to give back to the AALEAD community with all of our hearts.

Today is Thank Your Mentor Day, and we couldn’t think of a better way to share our thanks than by letting you hear and see what some of our very special Mentees had to say about their awesome Mentors themselves. Check it out, and Happy National Mentoring Month!

*Though this video only highlights some of the students involved in AALEAD’s Mentoring Program, all of our Mentees are extremely thankful for their Mentors and all of the wonderful experiences that they have shared together.

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

This past weekend, both our DC and MD mentors and mentees participated in a potluck and scavenger hunt at Meridian Hill Park. It was a gorgeous day filled with clear blue skies, and our mentoring pairs were ready to chow down on some delicious food and exercise their critical thinking skills during the hunt. From homemade yakisoba to crispy fried chicken and an array of fresh fruits, the dishes our mentoring pairs shared were super tasty and bursting with flavor. Not only did our meal span the colors of the rainbow, but the energy that the students displayed filled the park with a special kind of vibrancy as well.

After the pairs had the chance to fill their bellies and meet their fellow mentoring pairs, it was time to begin the scavenger hunt! DC AALEADers were paired with MD AALEADers in teams of four and then asked to take photos with statues, tell silly jokes, and demonstrate their creativity through a variety of tasks. As the students ran through the terraces of Meridian Hill Park and explored the historical area of the U Street Corridor with their mentors, lots of laughter, cheers, and encouragement could be heard throughout the course of the activity.

By participating in the scavenger hunt, our mentees not only learned about the importance of teamwork and how to rely on their team members’ strengths, but also, how to take the lead and share one’s knowledge with others. As the event came to an end, DC AALEADers reflected on how much they learned about their community and the neighborhood surrounding the AALEAD Community Center, while MD AALEADers enthusiastically expressed how fun it was to learn more about some of the landmarks and history in DC. These conversations highlight the significance of exposing our youth to new experiences, but also, remembering to have fun along the way as well.

Special shout out to all of the mentors and mentees who joined us at the potluck and scavenger hunt! We truly enjoyed seeing you all and are so happy that we were able to share such a beautiful day with such great company. Thanks so much, and can’t wait to see everyone again soon!

This past Saturday, twelve of our mentor-mentee pairs and staff members had the opportunity to go ice skating at the Wheaton Ice Arena. Though the weather was a tad bit gloomy and foggy outside, the energy and excitement that our mentor-mentee pairs displayed while indoors was contagious! As both mentors and mentees helped each other lace up their skates and prepare for an afternoon of skating, the camaraderie and AALEAD love could be felt in the air.

The rink finally opened its doors to the public, and everyone rushed in. While some of the mentees were learning how to ice skate for the first time, others were pros at twirling and doing impressive spins around the entire rink. Some mentors patiently held their mentees’ hands, guiding them around the rink, while other mentor-mentee pairs were ready to hit the ice again and again, racing each other and circling the rink in a matter of seconds.

Throughout the event, mentor-mentee pairs enjoyed each other’s company, taking the time to say hello to familiar faces and become friends with new ones. Tasty snacks and healthy fruits were also passed around, re-energizing the mentor-mentee pairs for another whirl around the rink. As the event came to an end, mentors and mentees said their goodbyes, promising to see each other again soon.

Events like these truly showcase the power of a mentor-mentee relationship because – just like in ice skating – mentors are there not only to help their mentees take their first steps, but also, they are always there to cheer their mentees on.  Our mentors and mentees are an extremely important part of our AALEAD family, and we are so thankful to have had the chance to celebrate the end of winter together. Until next time!

Special shout out to all the mentors and mentees who attended the event! We are so glad that you were able to join us, and we can’t wait to see you again soon!

Photo Credit: Micah Shearer & Tina Ngo

Mentoring: Grow Together, Learn Together

There is no other way to talk about my mentoring experience than to say that I feel like it’s more than being another adult who tells my mentee what to do.

I’ll never forget my first meeting with my mentee.  I knew that I needed to take the lead in getting to know her, and I knew that she expected me to forge that bond. At the same time, I wondered: “Are we going to get along? Are we going to be a good match? Is she going to like me? What if she doesn’t laugh at my jokes?”

I remember just sitting there, asking her all of these questions: What’s your favorite color? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you like to do? Do you think we’ll get along? *Okay, so I didn’t really ask her that last question.

As my mentee and I spent more and more time together, we discovered a lot about each other. I discovered a lot about her, as much as I’ve discovered a lot about myself. That’s what mentoring does; the process of creating a safe space for a young person to discover who they are, be reaffirmed, and grow, helps you as a mentor to find your own strengths and your own capacity to grow and learn with them.

There are just so many things that I hope my mentee has learned from me: that she can always come to me if she needs someone to talk to; that I will always do my best to create a safe space for her in which she feels like she can make mistakes, learn, and grow; that “knowledge is power and with great power comes great responsibility” (okay, I took that from Spiderman); but ultimately, that we’re in this together.

This process of figuring out my mentee, and asking her what she needs from me, helped me learn the middle ground of being a mentor. I’m not her parent, and I’m not her older sister. I can’t tell her what to do or baby her, but I can treat her as an empowered individual from whom I can learn just as much from as she can learn from me. I think that’s how mentoring most impacted me — through learning that I had a lot to teach her, yes, but also, that I had a lot to learn from her. So really, it’s a win-win situation. I get to have fun, get back in touch with my inner child, and cheer her on when she just gets it.

The best way I can describe being a mentor is this: if a parent is your lead cheerleader, mentors are like the back-up cheerleaders. As a mentor, I can never replace my mentee’s parents, but I can help fill in the gaps and share my experiences. I can help her process her identity, help her process her experiences, and help her use those experiences for the better instead of the worse. Mentors serve as the reinforcements — the additional traffic lights, the Google maps, and the extra stop signs. And reinforcements are pretty nice to have, especially if they take you out for ice cream.

Written by: Jessica Lee, Current Mentor

A Mentorship: Two Is Better Than One

In honor of National Mentoring Month, we will be sharing two of our Mentors’ stories and the experiences that they’ve had with AALEAD’s Mentoring Program. Please help us end National Mentoring Month with a bang by spreading the word about AALEAD’s Mentoring Program and voting for us as “Best Place to Volunteer” for Washington City Paper’s Best of DC 2013! Thank you to all of our Mentors — we are grateful for you and continue to be inspired by all the positive progress that you’ve made with our young people. Please enjoy Ryan’s story, and Happy National Mentoring Month! -Tina, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

Being a mentor has changed my life and been an incredibly rewarding experience.

My story is a little different from some as I first got to know my mentee by working with AALEAD, first through the Digital Connectors program and then tutoring nights and youth council meetings.  During that time, my mentee would often reach out to me to talk a little bit and I thought maybe I could help him by making the transition to being his mentor.

When I met my mentee’s family, they seemed happy to meet me but unsure of what exactly I could do to help their son.  I explained the goals my mentee and I had for the time I would spend with him, silently hoping that I could live up to these expectations.

A year has passed and taking time to reflect, I’m so happy with what my mentee has accomplished and the role I was able to play in that.   We worked on college applications and he’s been accepted to at least one.  We also talked a lot about what his passions are and he’s decided he really wants to pursue a career in digital media and video production. When he’s faced the emotional ups and downs of being in high school, I’ve been able to lend my support and talk things through with him.

It’s been a privilege to participate in AALEAD’s Mentoring program.  To be able to look back at this time and know that I made even a small difference in my mentee’s life is something I will treasure forever.

Written by: Ryan Ball, Current Mentor
Photo Credit: Ryan Ball &  AALEAD Youth

AALEAD Celebrates National Mentoring Month

“Every day, mentors help young Americans face the challenges of growing into adulthood. By setting a positive example and sharing their time, knowledge and experience, mentors play an essential role in preparing our Nation’s youth for a bright future. During National Mentoring Month, we celebrate the contributions of all those who cultivate a supportive environment for the next generation, and we recommit to expanding mentorship opportunities across our country.” -President Barack Obama


The hope of a new year is often accompanied with the hope of new and endless possibilities. From deciding to visit the gym three times a week to reading a book once a month, hundreds of thousands of varying resolutions are made and goals are committed to across the nation. One commitment in particular that our community of volunteers has selflessly and caringly dedicated themselves to year after year is AALEAD’s Mentoring Program. Our mentor-mentee pairs are part of the reason why, even on gloomy days such as this, the AALEAD family continues to grow stronger and develop together each and every day, bringing our own unique brand of sunshine with us wherever we go.

“I got the chance to meet a really cool, really special kid.  And the chance to go do some fun things that adults with busy work schedules don’t normally get to do.  I found myself really looking forward to my outings and conversations with my mentee, even if they weren’t always easy!” -Anne, Mentor

“I have much better insights into the challenges facing today’s pre-adolescents.  There are a lot of social, academic, and family pressures on our mentees.  I appreciate her gifts and continue to want to help her face her challenges.” -Beadsie, Mentor

“My mentee is a very energetic, kind hearted, open minded, family oriented young man who was very easy to get along with and try new things with. Glad to have someone I could experience some new foods with and hangout and play basketball.” -Edison, Mentor

“I just had an amazing time being a mentor and acknowledge AALEAD for doing an outstanding job and creating a platform for young people that provides them with support and guidance.” -Krupa, Mentor

“I gained an opportunity to think beyond myself and my life.” -Leena, Mentor

“I feel great about the mentoring program. It makes my life different, since I have a mentor who I can talk with when I am sad. It helps me a lot!” -Yuqiong, Mentee


In honor of National Mentoring Month, an annual media campaign that outreaches for mentor volunteers for young people, we will be highlighting quotes, stories, and photographs submitted by our one and only mentor-mentee pairs. The impacts that our mentors have made on the lives of their mentees have not only pushed our youth to succeed and continue to reach their full potential, but they have also helped cultivate the community that AALEAD is today. We are proud to say that our Mentors have truly set the bar for making a New Year’s resolution and committing to that goal throughout the year and beyond. Even more so, we are thankful for our loving and encouraging Mentors, who have inspired our students with the confidence to share their stories, the strength to create positive change in our communities, and the hope to believe in new and endless possibilities year in and year out.

This post is dedicated to all of our former and current Mentors: AALEAD would not be where we are today without your friendship, brilliance, and support. Thank you, and Happy National Mentoring Month!

Photo Credit: Melor Suhaimi
Photo & Quote Credit: National Mentoring Month Website

This past Saturday evening, nine of our mentor-mentee pairs and staff members had the opportunity to visit the White House and see the Residence decorated for the holidays. Prior to entering the House, youth, mentors, and staff met at the Visitor’s Entrance, enjoying one another’s company and sharing our excitement about the tour that was soon to come. As we finally gained entrance, the smell of pine and orange pomander wafted through the Residence, fostering feelings of warmth and the holiday spirit. AALEADers ventured from room to room, learning about interesting historical facts pertaining to each area as well as appreciating the ornamentation adorning each room.

Youth, mentors, and staff also had a fun-filled time searching for the special Bo-ornaments that Bo Obama, the First Family’s dog, left in eight different rooms throughout the White House. After the tour was finished and everyone in our group met outside, all that could be heard throughout the walk back was lots of cheering and laughter. As the end of the year approaches, it is the perfect time to reflect on the goals that we have accomplished, the things and people that we are grateful for, as well as the resolutions that we would like to make for the following year.  Here at AALEAD, we are thankful for every single individual who has played a role in cultivating the community that AALEAD is today. As the feelings of joy and warmth resonate throughout this merry season, we are definitely grateful that our loving and encouraging AALEAD family is a presence that remains throughout the year.

Many thanks to Jason Tengco and Gautam Raghavan from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for giving us the opportunity to partake in such a wonderful event!

Photo Credit: Friends of AALEAD

This past weekend, AALEADers had the opportunity to watch Mia Chung’s production of “You For Me For You” at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Set in the heart of New York City and North Korea, the play follows two sisters from North Korea who attempt to escape the horrors of an oppressive government. Similar to how “You For Me For You” explores the dual nature of the immigrant experience, our students took the time to reflect upon their own family histories and discuss how appreciative they are of the sacrifices that their own families had to make.

“The play really touched me. It really opened my eyes to how hard people’s lives are compared to ours and how we don’t even think about it.” -Alani

“I thought it was interesting because we learned about how life is in another country and how much they struggle.” -Michelle

“I thought it was inspirational because it showed that the sister would come back, and they still remembered each other throughout their struggles.” –Andrea

This collaborative effort between AALEAD and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company allowed our students to embrace the history behind their own heritages as well as recognize the struggles that many immigrants have to endure on their way to a better life. It also reinforced the importance of identity and being proud of where you or your family came from. Discussions like these help our students foster a positive sense of identity as well as give them the space to develop a shared sense of community, too. What an awesome way to spend the weekend!

Many thanks to Jocelyn Prince and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for giving our students the unique opportunity to watch such an amazing show!

Photo Credit: Francine Gorres