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By Victor Romos, DC Middle & High School Summer Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Victor Romos

Greetings! My name is Victor Romos, and I am this year’s DC Middle & High School Summer Program Intern. I am a Communications student at the University of California, Davis. I am originally from Santa Rosa, California, but I love Washington, DC, so I am thrilled to be working with the community in the area.

In high school, I played football, wrestled for a few years, and ran cross country. I love spending time talking to people, getting to know them, and making them smile. I also enjoy acting and singing. You can always find me either trying to make someone laugh or singing musical theater songs!

One of my biggest inspirations in life is my high school mentor who helped me develop a love for leadership and personal development, especially through public speaking. I hope to bring that same experience to all the youth that I will be working with this summer. I am very excited to get to know all the youth and help them get to know themselves! I believe that knowing yourself and being confident is key to developing the strong leadership skills everyone is capable of. I’m looking forward to an unforgettable and incredible summer with Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) youth and staff!

**Learn more about our other Summer 2015 Interns here: Hiba and Pallavi!**

By Pallavi Rudraraju, DC Elementary School Summer Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Pallavi Rudraraju, DC Elementary School Summer Program Intern

Hi, all!

I’m Pallavi Rudraraju, a rising junior at the College of William and Mary. I have self-designed an Asian American Studies major and am considering double majoring in South Asian Studies as well. As important as studies are to me, I consider my extracurricular activities to be an integral aspect of my college experience. As president of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain Students Association and an active member of many of my school’s student and administrative organizations geared toward cultural, religious, racial, and gender and sexuality diversity, I hope to bring my personal leadership experience as well as diverse background to the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) DC Elementary School Summer Program.

Here are some fun facts about me:

1.  I am actually part rainbow. Just kidding! Here’s a picture of me from my university’s annual Holi celebration, which we at the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain Students Association organized this past spring. I love any opportunity to celebrate South Asian traditions, whether they’re familiar to me or brand new!

2. I absolutely love dancing! I don’t think I’ve gone a day without dancing over the past fifteen years. I’ve been dancing Bharatanatyam, a Tamil form of classical Hindu dance, since age five and just recently picked up Bhangra, a Punjabi folk dance, during my sophomore year of college. Here’s a glimpse of my Bhangra team and me right before one of our competitions last semester!

3. I am very passionate about racial and social justice, particularly as they pertain to the Asian American, South Asian American, and LGBTIQA* communities. Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to find a career that allows me to work toward comprehensive and intersectional justice in any of these areas. I hope that my work with AALEAD this summer will help turn these passions and dreams into tangible realities!

While it’s evident from these pictures that I am incredibly happy with many aspects of my identity, there have been countless times throughout my childhood that I was not as happy and was even ashamed of parts of myself. Looking back, I feel regret that I ever felt shame over the identities which I now revel in and embrace. What I hope to accomplish at AALEAD is to allow the youth to associate positivity with all aspects of their identities and to instill a sense of pride toward their unique identities within them. I know that once they are comfortable with their identities, they can move on to become the inspirational and productive young leaders they all have the potential to be.

I cannot wait for the DC Elementary School Summer Program to begin! I know that I am in good hands with the wonderful people working at AALEAD and am so thrilled to be working with everyone for the next few months.

**Learn more about our other Summer 2015 Interns here: Hiba and Victor!**

By Hiba Ahmed, MD Summer Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Hiba Ahmed, MD Summer Program Intern

Hello!

My name is Hiba Ahmed, and I am the new MD Summer Program Intern! Already feeling very welcomed and excited to join the team, I cannot wait to learn and make progress in such a strong team environment in the upcoming months.

I am currently a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park working to complete my double undergraduate degrees in English Language and Literature and Family Science.

Youth development has always been an extremely important focus and interest of mine since I was in middle school. Often, I was involved with various volunteer and after school activities growing up that allowed me to interact with youth as they reached major milestones of their lives. As youth grow and develop, they are exposed to a variety of environmental, societal, and cultural influences. While they learn to adapt to these factors of life and become successful and productive members of society, it is crucial that each and every member of the newer generations is exposed to the best opportunities available to reach their highest potential.

Among the youth, the Asian American community certainly has a special place in my heart. Coming from an Asian American background myself, I often found myself feeling unrecognized – not in my achievements – but in my need for help as I navigated my way through transitioning periods of my life.  Through this internship, I hope to gain an abundance of leadership experience that will help me develop and strengthen my voice for my future aspirations and also overall movement into adulthood. I also look forward to gaining exposure to the workings of non-profit organizations and all of the work, values, and planning involved with organizing events and promoting a mission that serves to improve the community. Above all else, I look forward to helping the youth of the Asian American community find their way as they transition into other phases of their lives while building their confidence and encouraging their strengths along the way.

I am thrilled to be working with the brilliant youth of our current generation and an amazing team that fights for these necessities. I cannot wait to get started to absorb and learn everything that I can along the way. Let the summer festivities begin!

**Learn more about our other Summer 2015 Interns here: Pallavi and Victor!**

Goodbye for Now, AALEAD!

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

As the DC Elementary School Summer Program came to a close, I sat in a classroom recalling the past five weeks. Where had all the time gone? It seemed like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in a circle in the Tiger Class, imploring the students to take part in an icebreaker. Now as the program comes to an end, it amazes me how many fun experiences we have had together and how quickly I have built relationships with these students.

There are so many things I will miss about Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), from the early mornings in the cafeteria, watching the students color pictures and play Connect Four, to the laughter and fun throughout the day. I will miss the field trips to the farm, the pool, the Newseum and Six Flags. I will miss refereeing, and occasionally participating in their recess soccer games. I will miss watching them practice the Hakka and do yoga.

Most of all, I will miss the creativity of the students, not only in their productions of two AALEAD newspapers, but in their various methods for having fun as well as for solving problems.

While this blog post is written to say “goodbye” to AALEAD, it is most certainly not a “goodbye forever.” I look forward to coming back and seeing the continued growth of these exceptional young students, so instead, I’ll say goodbye for now, AALEAD. See you all sooner rather than later.

**Read additional Summer 2014 Interns’ reflections here: BhadonDavidHeein, and Laura!**

Reflections on My AALEAD Summer

By Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

My seven week internship with Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Elementary  School Program has been – to put it frankly – awesome. Although the time was short, I felt comfortable very quickly with all of the staff, teachers, and kids. I was hopeful about this internship when I left my semester of study in Shanghai not only because I would be able to continue using my Chinese, but also because I would be able to interact with students. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such a great group of people who are truly dedicated to the families they serve. Much of the learning I have done these past few weeks has come from simply observing the teachers and AALEAD staff.

Micah, the DC Programs Manager, works tirelessly to ensure that every student is having fun, being safe, and most of all, learning. Watching her arrange field trips, work with the kids, and simply input data have all been helpful to me in my learning experience. I found myself mimicking her and some of the other staff and teachers during my days at Thomson Elementary. This did include techniques for reinforcing rules, such as walking in the hallway and staying quiet in line.

However, my responsibilities did go beyond asking the kids to go back to where they started running and walk. Working on the administrative side of the non-profit also gave me a closer look at how a smaller organization functions and how each role has a larger effect. Non-profit work isn’t easy, and seeing every staff member at AALEAD give 150% really inspired me this summer. This internship has been a rewarding experience and has given me an opportunity to see education in a new and different light. I feel more confident to continue pursuing education as a career. Additionally, I am seriously considering returning to AALEAD to work as a Teaching Assistant next summer. I’m grateful to Micah, Tina, Surjeet, and all the other AALEAD staff, teachers, interns, and students for making this summer such a great experience.

**Read additional Summer 2014 Interns’ reflections here: AlexBhadonDavid, and Heein!**

Gratitude & Reflections on Summer Kinect

By David Ma, MD Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff & Students

The past 6 weeks have been a really memorable experience for me. Although I’ve participated in Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) summer programs for the previous two years as a high school student leader, I’ve never seen the programming through the eyes of a staff member before. No one really expects it, but there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes, especially with the paper work.  Now that I think back on all of my experiences with AALEAD, I’m so thankful for everything that the staff has done for the students. So, I guess it is better late than never: thank you staff for all that you’ve done for us.

My internship experience this summer was mind-blowing with the amount of students and the area of space we had to use. I’m glad that all of the students had 6 weeks to bond with other youth and staff, though I do wish the program could last longer. It felt like the program just started yesterday and I had just begun to adapt to being a good intern; just like that, as soon as I got the hang of everything, the program ended. I will truly miss everyone, especially our MD Programs Manager and my former High School Program Coordinator, Francine Gorres. It is because of her that I’m not shy to share my poetic talents and that I continue to grow as a leader every day. AALEAD will always be my second family, so this is my farewell, but not goodbye.

**Read additional Summer 2014 Interns’ reflections here: AlexBhadonHeein, and Laura!**

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.

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 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!