Tag Archive: Maryland Middle School Program

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

“What are we doing today?” asks a youth entering the room as I am writing the agenda on the classroom board. “Are we making food today?” shouts another youth from the doorway. I hear these two questions daily.

As expected, middle school youth are most excited about our in-class food and cooking lesson plans. As one youth remarked, “I like cooking activities because it shows me how easy cooking can be, and I can make most of these dishes at home for myself and my family. If we can make full dishes in a small classroom, I’m pretty sure I can make it in a real kitchen.” Youth enjoy cooking lessons because, well, there’s food!

Aside from getting to make and eat food in AALEAD’s after-school programs, youth like food and cooking lessons because it offers a different window into learning about other cultures, and allows youth to share parts of their cultures with peers. This year, youth at Argyle and Parkland Middle Schools created their own menu for their cooking lessons. Their menu included dishes they wanted to make and eat but was based on their own cultures or cultures and countries they wanted to learn more about.

Throughout the year, we made many dishes with varying levels of preparation and cooking, including: Vietnamese pho and spring rolls, Japanese sushi, ramen, and curry, Filipino halo-halo, French verines, French and American parfait, Thai mango sticky rice, pad thai, and tea, Mexican quesadilla, and Taiwanese boba tea (also known as bubble tea).

Food can tell us much about a country and cultures. For example, we paired a sushi cooking activity with a lesson on Japan’s geography (an island) and main food source (the surrounding ocean). As a island, Japan relies heavily on seafood from the surrounding waters for food, and has one of the world’s largest seafood markets. Sushi, made of rice, vegetables, and seafood rolled in seaweed, and sashimi, fresh raw fish cut in thin slices, are staples of Japanese cuisine and are the most well-known Japanese food items in the United States. By looking at the ingredients of one of Japan’s most popular food, we can learn more about the country and its people.

Dish ingredients can also tell us about the history of a country and people. When youth made halo-halo, a Filipino dessert made up of a hodge-podge of fruits, milk, ice cream, and shaved ice, we paired it with a history lesson on the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, other Asian migration to the islands, and western influences, which all shape and influence Filipino culture and cuisine.

As we reflect on the year through food, youth shared their experiences and take-aways from our food and cooking lessons. Below are a few comments from the youth:

“My favorite food was mango sticky rice. It was something new, and my first time eating rice as a dessert.”
“Cooking activities are important because I get to talk about the food I eat at home and share that with my friends. I just had pho at home yesterday and now I am making it with my friends in class.”
“I think cooking lessons are good to have in AALEAD because I don’t always get to cook at home. When I make stuff in class and learn about how it’s made, I can make it at home as well.”
“It’s cool to see how you don’t need a kitchen to cook. I thought it was cool that we made ramen and pho just by using a rice cooker to boil the broth. That was fun.”

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

To learn more about Gifts for the Homeless and how you can help, visit

By David Ma, MD Programs Intern
Photo Courtesy of David Ma, MD Programs Intern

Hello, everybody! My name is David Ma, and I am a summer intern for the MD Summer Kinect Program. I am entering my sophomore year at Montgomery College-Rockville this fall and plan to pursue a career in the field of business/accounting. I am a super friendly person, so youth, please don’t be afraid to approach me! I am also very outgoing and not afraid of trying new things. Basketball and writing poems are my favorite things to do. One of the most important things to know about me is that I love food. I think that food is a basic need that everyone needs every day, so all meals should be enjoyed to the fullest.

As an AALEAD alumnus, I have worked with AALEAD youth for the past two summers and had a wonderful experience both times, so I decided to enjoy another summer with the AALEAD family… except as an intern this time around! I think that it will be challenging learning how to balance my roles as a former student and current intern, but I am excited to develop stronger relationships with AALEAD staff and volunteers. I am also looking forward to learning as much as I can and building more career skills and experiences surrounding youth work, education, and nutrition this summer.

**Learn more about our other Summer 2014 Interns here: AlexBhadonHeein, and Laura!**

Lights, Camera, Action!

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

We are  proud to announce that our MD High School and Middle School youth have finally completed their Youth Media Projects for the spring! They have worked incredibly hard trying to put this together. From learning about pre-production and creating storyboards and messages, to editing and camera work, the students had real hands on experience in what it takes to be a part of a film production!

Some students directed on set, while others mixed sound and audio. We had several actors and actresses, and students working lights to get the perfect picture.

Middle School

In AALEAD, we have many different kinds of students. Students wanted to create a video that featured the many different faces, stories, and personalities of their program. It was their first attempt to answer an important question, “Who am I?” Through these discussions, students were able to learn more about their peers and about themselves and share some of the stories with the world. So AALEADers…who are you?

High School

From the high school perspective, life seems to speed up and get harder with each passing year. AALEAD students wanted to address the model minority stereotype and how it affects Asian American youth. We discussed academic struggles, parental pressures, making friends, stereotypes, and even identifying with being “Asian.” Not one Asian American student had exactly the same story. They really struggled trying to put it all together to convey one message.  They finally decided to focus on a story of hope and following your individual passion–even if it’s not what most people expect from you.

We hope you enjoy the videos! Please stay tuned for a future update on personal interviews from the student actors, directors, and editors!

Special thank you to Wyman and Amy from DC APA Film and to the Gandhi Brigade for your support and helping to make this possible. Congratulations to all of the AALEAD students involved in the video productions! Well done!

By Francine Gorres, Antwoine Johnson, Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

T’was the Week of the Holiday Party, when all through the School

Not a student was present, the snow kept us Cool.

Students hurried with Coordinators to draw and Paint,

In the hope to finish the banners without too much Complaint.

Stars! Ornaments! And Paper

Such creativity we have that we cannot Taper!

When Tomorrow comes we will Celebrate

Not only the Holidays, but our ability to Cooperate!

AALEAD will be celebrating the Holidays with students tomorrow night at the Annual MD Holiday Party. Over the past few years it has become a great tradition for students to create their own decorations for the party. We are excited to see what the students have created and to greet new and old families!

First MD AALEAD Halloween Night a Success!

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

A couple of witches, a cat, Tinkerbell, a football player, Mordecai, Superman, a baby, and twenty MD AALEAD youth joined MD AALEAD for its first spooktacular Halloween night last Thursday. Youth from all seven of our middle and high schools, and even former students now in college, came out to celebrate Halloween, went trick-or-treating, and watched a Halloween family classic, Hocus Pocus.

Students gathered at the MD AALEAD office to finish putting on costumes, paint faces, and meet their peers from other schools. Then, it was time for the fun part: students went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood for candy. For one student who came to the U.S. from China in 2010, this was her very first time participating in the American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating. For others, like our high school students, this was their first time trick-or-treating since they were in elementary school.

Within only one hour of trick-or-treating, every student returned to the AALEAD office with a heavy bag full of candy, evidence of their high and abundant energy running from house to house. Students then ate dinner (and owl cupcakes!) and settled down to watch a Halloween movie. Many laughs, and even a loud scream, could be heard throughout the room as students watched Hocus Pocus together.

No matter where students come from or how old (or young) they are, everyone had a great time getting to know one another, sharing treats, and spending time with their AALEAD family. This night was a great success and a fun first for an event that will now be held annually.

Intern Introduction: Greetings from Romano!

By Romano Robles, AALEAD Intern
Photos by Romano Robles, AALEAD Intern

Greetings, my name is Romano, and I am the Fall 2013 MD Middle School Programs Intern! As mostly everyone knows, I’m also an AALEAD alumnus and attended MD High School Programs at Montgomery Blair High School. Currently, I’m attending Montgomery College, Rockville to pursue my Associate’s Degree in Computer Applications.

I first heard about AALEAD through a friend (who is also an AALEAD alumnus) when I was a freshman in high school and joined back in 2009. I thought it would be really helpful for me to join AALEAD because I recently immigrated to the United States in 2008 and everything was new for me. I also wanted to be more involved with the community. Aside from helping me become more active at school, AALEAD also offered me the opportunity to share my passion for dancing with the rest of my peers.  It is because of AALEAD that I’ve performed at several holiday parties and have also choreographed a dance for Fiesta Asia. Without AALEAD, I’d probably be dancing alone in my room and wouldn’t be where I am today.

I applied for the Fall 2013 AALEAD Programs Internship because I think it is a great opportunity to expand my skillset and learn more about youth work. I am expecting great outcomes and look forward to overcoming any obstacles that may come my way. Wish me luck!

Back-to-School Jitters

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff

For the twentieth time in my life, I have a common case of the back-to-school jitters. No, I’m not a student, but I sure feel like one. Will the students like me? Who are the counselors? How long will it take before I can make my way through the school and know where everything is? The list of jitter-questions goes on and on.

Although school has already been in session for students, teachers, and staff for a month, Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) MD Middle School Program has yet to begin. While middle school youth were busy catching up with friends and settling into their new classes and schedules, this past month I have been busy meeting with youth over lunch recruitments, prepping lesson plans and curriculum, and getting pumped for the program, which starts on Monday, September 29!

The excitement exuded by returning AALEAD youth at lunch recruitments remind me that middle school is a place of exploration, learning, and fun. In between elementary school and high school, middle school youth are adjusting to a new schedule, exploring a range of interests, and taking part in numerous extracurricular and after-school programs that they enjoy. It’s great to know that many youth look forward to the start of AALEAD programs at their schools. I have even received a couple of phone calls from interested parents who want to sign their child up for the program. After briefly meeting former and prospective new AALEAD youth during lunch recruitment the past two weeks, I am less jittery and more than excited to begin sessions and start working with the high-energy and bright minds of the youth who make up the AALEAD family. It’s going to be a great year!

Farewell AALEAD!

Just a little over two years ago, I first walked through the doors of AALEAD, equally nervous and excited. Today, I will leave knowing what an incredible experience my time here has been, immensely gratifying, inspiring and memorable all at the same time.

I feel strongly that working with youth is a unique privilege. As an AALEAD coordinator, you bear the responsibility of helping guide them in their journey, of being a role model and never taking your time with them for granted. The funny thing is just how much we grow alongside our students. It’s cliché to say that kids teach us as we teach them, but in my case at least, it’s been absolutely true.

I will always look back fondly on being the coordinator for Digital Connectors for two summers and seeing the students accomplish so much in a short period of time. My time with middle school has been particularly special, as we cooked up a storm, delved into an array of cultural traditions and customs and learned how to work together and strengthen the bonds of friends and family.

It’s never easy saying goodbye, but I’m looking forward to staying in touch and witnessing all of the great things to come here in AALEAD.

Summer 2013 Intern: Vanessa Bui

Hi! I’m Vanessa, the Summer 2013 Maryland Middle and High School intern. Hailing all the way from Orange County, California, this is my first time in Washington D.C. and Maryland. Oh and before anyone asks…yes, my life is exactly like the TV shows The O.C. and The Hills. I received my Bachelor’s degree in History from Saint Mary’s College, an all women’s college across the street from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Southern California. When I’m not saving the world one person at a time, you can find me reading about history, obsessing over Welsh Corgi puppies (seriously have you seen their stubby little legs?!), or trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

Having fun on Splash Mountain...too much fun?

I am excited to be part of the AALEAD Summer Fusion program. As an aspiring social worker, I have learned that being genuine is one of the most important lessons in working with youth. I hope to make a positive impact on those in the programs so that they will learn to be more comfortable with themselves and in turn, inspire others to do the same.

Excited to be in D.C.!

In front of the White House