By Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos by AALEAD Staff
Despite the dreary weather and gray skies last Friday, over 100 youth and families from AALEAD’s Maryland, D.C., and Virginia middle and high school programs attended the annual kick-off picnic at Wheaton Forest Park in Silver Spring, MD. Hugs and handshakes could be seen everywhere as youth from different schools and across program sites reconnected after a long summer or met for the first time. AALEAD staff also had the opportunity to meet parents, guardians, and siblings of youth in their programs. The picnic was a wonderful way to kick off the after-school program year now that all programs have begun in all of our sites.
Picnic activities included an intense and hilarious relay race, parent’s meeting, and dinner. The relay race, called Banana Olympics, required youth to work in teams to complete a series of tasks involving a banana in order to win. Youth had to use a banana as a microphone to sing to their staff referee, balance a banana on their head as they walked up and down the course, and hop with a banana between their knees, among other tasks, as laughter rang throughout the park. While the youth played the game, parents were able to learn more about AALEAD, ask questions, hear from and speak to Surjeet Ahluwalia, Executive Director, and meet other parents. Youth and families then came together to enjoy a great dinner and free time.
As AALEAD continues to expand, it is important for AALEADers to not only develop relationships within their individual programs but also integrate into the larger AALEAD family. With new staff members, a new VA high school program, a revamped DC middle and high school program, as well as numerous new participants to MD programs, the picnic provided a great opportunity for AALEADers to connect and build a strong foundation across states, schools, and grades. As a Program Coordinator, it is always inspiring to see youth step out of their comfort zones to meet more people and maintain new friendships they have developed by attending large events like this picnic.
This year’s kick-off picnic drew the largest number of participants at this event in recent years, reminding us of how far and wide AALEAD has grown since its humble beginnings in D.C. 16 years ago. Let’s keep the positive energy and momentum from this picnic going as we head into another exciting year of after-school programs!
The success of events such as this kick-off picnic is made possible by the support of local businesses.
AALEAD would like to acknowledge and thank the following businesses for their generous food contributions:
Hollywood East Café