By Neel Saxena, Executive Director
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
It’s Thanksgiving week and this marks the 1 year anniversary of my transition to Executive Director at Asian American LEAD. Since first connecting to AALEAD in 2001 to my time with AALEAD now, I feel fortunate to be able to utilize all that I have learned and experienced and positively contribute to strengthen the organization.
For some around Thanksgiving it is a time to go home to their families and enjoy a home cooked meal, meet new relatives who just came to the US, and partake in awkward family moments that you fondly remember during bouts of nostalgia. How ever one spends this time during the American “holiday” season, I like to spend additional moments to reflect on what I am grateful for in my life. One of these things is my connection and role as Executive Director of AALEAD. Here are some of the things I am most thankful for:
For the privilege to support powerful, insightful youth. AALEAD youth have an incredible sense of resilience despite their history and needs being overlooked. Everyday I am inspired by the youth’s perspectives on their futures and their drive to make the world in the image they want to see for themselves, their peers, families, and the broader community. During this past AALEAD Youth Summit, Ellen, a youth in the DC Middle & High School Program inspired fellow youth and staff with her eloquent speech. I am grateful to encounter such youth and celebrate their individuality!
Working with dedicated staff. Everyday I look forward coming to work because I get to spend my day with funny, pure-hearted, highly skilled individuals.
The staff are the strength of the organization with their expertise in positive youth development applying a cultural and at time linguistic lens to programming that is accessible to youth. It is not just the breadth but the excellence they demonstrate in their effort and focus with youth that sets them apart. I am grateful to be able to work with them as we support low-income and underserved APA youth.
Opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of the voices of overlooked communities. I am grateful that I am in a position to advocate for low-income APA youth by ensuring their voices are included and heard. It has been important for me to take the opportunities to speak up and speak out, pointing out instances where the APA community has been left out of the conversation. This past year, I had the opportunity to write a blog post for the Meyer Foundation just on this topic and will continue to do so moving forward. I’m grateful for the privilege to be able to utilize my experiences and position and provide an opportunity for our youth voices to be included.
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.