By: Pallavi Rudraraju, former VA Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff
There’s no easy way to say it: this is my final blog post.
As I write this post, I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with gratitude, fondness, and sadness. I am beyond thankful for a life-changing tenure at AALEAD. Before I delve into this post, I want to thank my youth from the bottom of my heart for coming to programs each day and bringing their curiosity and light with them. I have told you so many times and I will tell you again – you were the highlight of my day, every day that we had programs, field trips, and youth council meetings! You have taught me so much about myself and the world around me, and I can only hope that you feel the same about our time together.
As some of you may recall, I have been with AALEAD since June, 2015. I started out as a fresh and eager DC Elementary School Summer Intern. AALEAD was my very first internship! Thanks to the warmth and encouragement of the DC ES Staff, especially my supervisor, Charles Kuo, I grew exponentially and felt confident in my abilities in a professional environment. We sometimes joked that maybe I had too many responsibilities that summer, but by being able to create weekly family newsletters, handle administrative tasks, and assist and lead workshops during programs, I learned everything in my internship that I would need when I started my first full day as the Virginia Middle School Program Coordinator two years later.
The Virginia Program in particular has lodged itself firmly into my heart. On my second day as Program Coordinator, Shaima (VA Programs Manager) and Yonsoo (former VA MS Program Coordinator) hosted the VA Regional End-Of-Year Celebration. From that short snippet of time with the Annandale HS, Holmes MS and Poe MS youth, I realized that I had been thrown into something really special. The middle school youth graciously took the time to get to know me and gave their full attention to our workshops. When after school programs at Poe were terminated, the high school youth kindly welcomed me into their Thursday programs. Poe youth especially came together to support each other and work with me to make sure that contact between Poe youth and AALEAD continued this semester. Even staff from other regions couldn’t help but notice how wonderful our youth are – whenever they visited programs they had nothing but good things to say about our incredible youth.
My favorite memories will always be our summer programs – from DC ES Ohana in 2015 to VA Mic Check in 2017 to VA Origins in 2018, I had a blast organizing our themes and activities and getting to interact with youth on a deeper level. Here are some highlights from each of my summer programs
In my time as an intern and program coordinator at AALEAD, I learned professionalism, accountability, and community building. AALEAD also taught me how to find joy in work, how to learn from those I teach, and how to make a huge impact with just a little creativity and some basic program supplies. AALEAD staff and youth helped me realize my calling in life.
I want to take a moment to thank the amazing AALEAD staff who helped me work through difficulties, supported my growth, and provided me with endless laughter and entertainment in our time together. Thank you for coming in to work every day, and for doing all that you do. You create a lasting impact for our youth and our future which we may not realize in the moment, but is there nevertheless.
I am taking the countless lessons I’ve learned with me to my new position as Children, Youth, and Families Program Coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign. A difficult situation this past Fall helped me realize how much work is still left to do in the fight for our LGBTQ+ youth, especially at the institutional level. Our LGBTQ+ Asian Pacific American youth face many intersectional struggles especially. I stand by the principle that education and conversation, not silence and suppression, is how we progress as a society. While I am excited for my new chapter ahead, I know that this is not the end of my time at AALEAD. I will take all the strong bonds and happy memories with me, and hope to support AALEAD in different capacities in the near future. With that, I say: