By Brian L., Current AALEAD Mentor
Photos Courtesy of Brian L., Current AALEAD Mentor
As we continue to celebrate National Mentoring Month at Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), we turn to the following post, which comes to us from one of our DC mentors, Brian L. What a powerful thing it is to connect, grow, and learn from each other. Thank you, Brian, for sharing your story. Happy National Mentoring Month! -Stephanie Lim, Mentoring & Volunteer Programs Coordinator
I first heard about AALEAD from a good friend of mine who was involved by way of a program she was in at the University of Maryland. She used to tell me about how the youth were mostly minority children growing up in DC, their unique stories and upbringing, the challenges they faced, and the potential they possessed. The thing that I remember the most and that really resonated with me was how similar their upbringing was to mine. I could recall how it was growing up in an inner city of northern New Jersey. I remembered how there were a lot of cultural, educational, and economic issues I had being a first generation Asian American in my family. Listening to my friend talk about the youth in AALEAD reminded me that the same struggles I had also exist for youth growing up today.
That was the moment I knew I wanted to be an AALEAD mentor. I wanted to share my experience with a young person growing up under circumstances similar to mine and I wanted to have a positive impact on his or her life. I was fortunate enough to meet Ali and his family, and then have the privilege to be his mentor. Prior to our meeting, I heard great things about him, and I remember noting that not only was his upbringing similar to mine, but that we also had a lot of similar interests (video games, sports, TV, gadgets, etc.).
When we first met, we made a list of things we wanted to do together, and I remember being really excited about spending time getting to know Ali and doing cool things with him. I’ve been so lucky to have been paired with Ali and to really get to know him. My relationship with him has given me a new perspective on what it means to try and be a person that others look up to as a role model, how my actions can extend beyond impacting just my life, and how they can influence others in a positive way.
One of my favorite experiences with Ali is when he visited me at my job, and I had an opportunity to show him a little bit about what it’s like to be an engineer (and also play foosball). I showed him my work space, and I could see this spark of curiosity and eagerness in his eyes. He started asking me really great questions, and it felt so good to be able to share with him my path in school and to my career. Since then, we talk often about his aspirations to go to the University of Maryland and also become an engineer. I’m so thankful for the chance to be a part of his life, and I look forward to sharing more moments with him as he embarks into high school and beyond. I hope we can continue to learn and grow together (and help him build his first computer)!