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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, Mentoring Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern

Hi, my name is Bhadon Shalakin, and I am the Mentoring Program Intern this summer. I am currently heading into my freshman year of college at the University of Kentucky. I have been a part of AALEAD for 5 years as a student, but this is my first summer being an intern. I am looking forward to helping Tina teach students about leadership and community involvement as well as give advice on their transitions into middle or high school. While I have already taught some of these students before, I will also be meeting some of them for the first time, and I am excited to work with all of them this summer!

Interesting facts about myself: I was originally born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and moved to Washington, DC when I was only 1.5 years old. I enjoyed watching almost every sport and also play soccer and football frequently. Some of my other hobbies are to cook and read.

I know this summer will be a great opportunity to grow and develop as an advocate for the community. I especially look forward to gaining more hands-on experience while teaching a diverse group of students and think this is an awesome way to spend my last summer with AALEAD.

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

By Alex Neeley, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Alex Neeley, DC Elementary School Program Intern

Hello! My name is Alex Neeley, and I will be interning with the DC Elementary School Program this summer. I am currently going into my junior year at the University of Washington in Seattle where I am pursuing a degree in International Studies. I am also a 2012 graduate of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Washington, DC.

In the past, I have worked with elementary school children at the Smithsonian Summer Camp. Additionally, I have worked with high school students through the University of Washington Dream Project, a program that helps low-­income high school juniors and seniors from Seattle apply for college and post-secondary school careers. Through AALEAD, I am looking to continue my work with children, while providing support and guidance for my fellow DC Public School (DCPS) students. I am excited for this summer and look forward to working with everyone at AALEAD!

**Learn more about our other Summer 2014 Interns here: Bhadon, David, Heein, and Laura!**

By Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Program Intern

Hello! My name is Laura Ma, and I am very excited to be in Washington DC this summer working as one of AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Program Interns. I am originally from Elkton, MD and am a rising senior at the University of Delaware, where I am pursuing a dual degree in East Asian Studies and Interpersonal Communications with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. My interest in AALEAD comes from my interest in Asian culture, intercultural communications, and teaching. This past spring semester, I lived and studied Chinese in Shanghai while additionally teaching fourth grade English at a migrant school. I look forward to using the skills from that experience here in DC through community and youth development at Thomson Elementary School.

Here are other fun facts about myself: I am second generation Honduran and Chinese and have a love for food from all cultures. Although I am not great at cooking, I love eating and socializing. My favorite television shows include, but are definitely not limited to: Modern Family, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards. During my free time, I like to play tennis and volleyball. Traveling is another hobby of mine which I hope to continue after graduation as I am currently applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan.

I am very excited to begin this internship because I know I will be learning and cultivating my own skills while helping students and contributing to AALEAD.

**Learn more about our other Summer 2014 Interns here: AlexBhadonDavid, and Heein!**

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!**

By Heein Choi, Development & Communications Intern
Photo Courtesy of Heein Choi, Development & Communications Intern

Hey everyone! My name is Heein Choi, and I am from Ellicott City, Maryland. I recently finished my first year at the College of William and Mary and intend to double major in Asian American Studies and Business. Over the summer of 2014, I will be serving as Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Development and Communications Intern. Growing up in an Asian American community, I have been searching for methods to give back to the people that have placed the groundwork for me to succeed.

Hearing the stories of AALEAD students reminded me of my own experience of immigrating from South Korea at the age of five. When I first came to the United States, I struggled to establish my identity as an American. Although I had not been born in the United States, I felt every bit as American as my peers and wrestled with the question: what could I do to become fully American? When I pondered about these types of questions at a young age, I wished I had an organization like AALEAD to support me. With AALEAD’s mentoring and after-school programs set out to guide and nurture Asian American youth, these students know that they are not alone in these internal struggles.

I believe that AALEAD’s goal of serving Asian American youth coincides with my passions. At the College of William and Mary, I currently serve on the Executive Board of the Asian American Student Initiative (AASI), which is a grassroots team that is focused on spreading awareness of Asian Americans on campus. AASI reaches out to the students of William and Mary with innovative photo campaigns such as “Faces of Asian Americans.”

I am excited for the new experiences, people, and youth I will be meeting as an intern at AALEAD. Most of all, I am thrilled to know that I will be in an environment where my passion and dedication will be matched by every staff member.

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

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!

An Extraordinary 5 Weeks with AALEAD

By Julie Kwong, AALEAD Elementary School Summer Program Teaching Assistant
Photos Courtesy of Julie Kwong

I didn’t know what to expect when I accepted the Teaching Assistant position for AALEAD’s Summer Elementary School Program. I heard so many great things from returning staff about the students during training week, but all of the tips that were given and all of the experiences that were shared ended up entering one ear, lingering for a bit, and then shooting out the other; in order to really understand what was being said, I had to be in the moment and a part of that experience. Now, almost five weeks later, I can say that I finally understand those moments and have even collected some stories and advice of my own to share.

If I could only share one thing that I have learned, it would be this: these kids are like presents: full of surprises. The first thing I noticed when I met these kids was their adorableness. They are the epitome of cuteness, excitement, and happiness all contained in a miniature-size hyper package. However, beneath this outer shell, they also have so many untapped talents, ideas, and dreams. Jonathan, in the beginning a very talkative kid, adjusted his behavior in recent weeks, thoughtfully completing assignments and paying attention in class without repeatedly being asked to do so. On the first day, he half-heartedly fulfilled the dream assignment, declaring that he will be a billionaire in the future with a great mansion and pricey car. Recently, in our mini class talent show, he patiently taught the class how to dribble a basketball through their legs. He told us that he enjoyed basketball because he was inspired by his brother to play and improve. Unlike his far-fetched (but, still possible!) dream in the first week, he admitted that to be a great basketball player, he would have to dedicate a lot of time and hard work. He’s up for the challenge, but also understands that not everyone can just join the NBA. This and countless other similar stories have surfaced among my students in the past month. Setting high expectations and truly believing in the potential of these kids are the only ways to avoid the side effects of these inevitable first impressions and presumptions.

I am without a doubt reluctant to wrap up my time with these students. I will miss each one of their smiling faces and unbounded mouths that endlessly spill brilliant thoughts and ideas. I will miss seeing their eager faces during reading time, watching their hands wave vigorously in the air to answer a question, and sharing laughs at their witty remarks. Most of all, I will miss discovering their priceless surprises and helping them see what I see in them: great potential and a bright future with endless possibilities.

By Karen Yee, AALEAD DC Secondary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD

Students have an ambitious agenda planned for this summer. July 26 marks the beginning of Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) 2nd Annual Asian Pacific American Youth Summit, and DC and MD students are busy planning for it every Monday up until the very start of the event. Youth also have an amazing opportunity to plan, shoot, and edit their own three to five minute video that will be submitted to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Students are also hard at work coming up with new ideas and prepping new lessons plans for the elementary school students.

While students are hard at work with planning the Youth Summit and everything else, they are also learning about various subjects like Asian American history, yoga and creative writing. Pictured above, students are rhetorically analyzing various advertisements and learning how organizations and businesses use ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade their audience. The Rhetorical Analysis workshop kicks off the series of Presentation Workshops that will happen on most Wednesdays and will end with a 10-minute presentation presented by students about a topic they are passionate about.

Next week, students get to attend the OCA Convention to get a better grasp of how to increase cross-cultural communication and to hone their leadership skills. As it is the second week of the DC program, there are only three more weeks until the Youth Summit and five more weeks until the video showing!

Stay tuned for more info!