By Ha Nguyen, VA Summer Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
It is hard to believe that the Summer Horizons program at Virginia has come to an end! I guess the saying is true: Time flies when you are having fun. Over the course of the summer, our middle school and high school youth have come together, persevering through challenges and achieving goals that our staff had set for our program; and at the same time have managed to build a strong bond with one another. At the final day of the program, everyone had a chance to reflect on the impact that this experience had on them and the most common theme turned out to be … this has been a family! I am really amazed that even though we only spent six weeks together this summer for the very first time, despite all the differences and difficulties, our youth have connected to create a heartwarming and supportive community together.
The theme of the Virginia program this year was Summer Horizons, and I must admit, my horizon has also expanded tremendously as I worked alongside with our staff and youth. I have learned so much and have so many valuable reflections for myself at the end of every single week. I learned to anticipate the challenges that we might have when running the program, and of course be prepared for changes in the schedule. It is always easier said than done, and I’m so lucky to be able to witness the Virginia staff in action and breeze through any unexpected obstacles that might have been in their way. Another lesson I have gained is always trying to think outside of the box. Even though the program does have a schedule of what needs to be done, it absolutely does not constrain the potential opportunity to expand our creativity. Time after time, I have seen the youth and our staff encouraging one another to thrive in their imagination and inspiration to stand out from the status quo and be their own amazing individual selves.
But the biggest takeaway moment for me is seeing the interactions among everyone in the program, from our dedicated staff and compassionate volunteers, to the incredible groups of youth. We learned together, we faced hardship together, and we each became better people through those moments spent together. Most importantly, we always wholeheartedly supported one another, for if one falls, there will definitely be one that helps them to get up. At that moment, I realized we built something special, and I’m sure the programs in Virginia will flourish even more after this summer.
It has been a privilege spending my summer with these extraordinary individuals, and amidst all the farewells, I know I will walk away with a new mindset: “Always walk through life as if you have something to learn, and you will.”