By Mylynh Nguyen, Program Director
Photos courtesy of Mylynh Nguyen and Chelsea Iorlano
It is amazing for me to look back to when my journey began with AALEAD and realize that it has already been two and a half months since I gained this wonderful second family. While the eventful pace of summer programming can be an overwhelming starting point for any newcomer to the team, I feel lucky that the timing of my start allowed me to experience so much activity in such a brief period of time.
Summers with AALEAD are particularly special because the intensity of the program schedule allows relationships to be established, strengthened, and deepened. This is true not only for the youth, but also for the staff. When I first started my new role as Program Director in early June, I remember the warm welcome I received from the staff and the youth as I visited their programs during their last days of the academic school year. There was excitement in the air as we congratulated the graduates in the Class of 2015, celebrated accomplishments of the year, and looked forward to a special summer together. I was immediately impressed by how supportive everyone was of one another and how close everyone seemed to be. As I was being introduced to dozens of new people and learning their names, my initial thoughts were that it would take me quite a long time to develop each of these new connections to a point where we could feel comfortable openly sharing who we are, what drives us, our interests, and our passions. With AALEAD’s continued growth and expansion, there were many new people to meet and learn about. As it turns out, however, the whirlwind of summer programming has proven to be a very ideal time to cultivate these new relationships, which I have already come to cherish.
We proudly served over 200 youth across our three AALEAD summer programs. The unique opportunity to spend full days together for a period of five weeks allowed the impacts of our programming to be even greater. Our youth participated in workshops focused on arts and culture, physical and mental health, life transitions, college and career readiness, community service, and leadership development. I personally had the honor of getting to know our youth through camping trips, daily programming and workshops, group dinners and picnics, community service activities, field trips, expressions of art and talent, and conversation with families. It has been wonderful to witness the beauty of each of their personalities rise to the surface and to get to know them better as individuals. I have already seen such great growth in many of our youth this summer.
It is through the work of AALEAD’s highly talented full-time staff, part-time staff, volunteers, interns, mentors, and board members that our youth and staff have such wonderful opportunities to grow. It is a great honor to work with such a strong team of deeply caring individuals. As we sadly had to bid farewell to two of our most talented and veteran staff members this summer, Sharon Choi and Melor Suhaimi, we look ahead and celebrate the promotions of Keo Xiong, Shaima Ahmed, and Tina Ngo as they transition from Coordinator roles to Manager roles with AALEAD. We are also delighted to welcome four new staff members to the AALEAD team this fall. This is an exciting time for our organization, and after witnessing this summer how new relationships can quickly and organically develop through the supportive culture of AALEAD, I am very excited to head into this new school year and to discover what opportunities are in store. Thank you to my AALEAD family for such a wonderful first summer!