By Sharon Choi, Development & Communications Manager
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff
Only having been with us since April 2014, AALEAD’s Parent Outreach Coordinator, Charles Kuo, has already made such an impact, not only on our parents, but on our youth, too. If you ever come by our offices or programs, you won’t ever miss Charles! He always has a smile on his face and brings amazing energy to AALEAD. Read on, to get to know him a bit better!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I am Taiwanese American. My parents both emigrated from Taiwan. I grew up in a very Taiwanese home, speaking Taiwanese. For school, I went to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I studied Public Health. I was involved in a lot of different organizations, the Taiwanese Student Association, and an a cappella group–we were called the Mama’s Boys. After that, I did the non-typical thing. I was debating what to do and I went to Taiwan for a year. It was very different, but I was there as a missionary for a year in a small village, it was a fishing village called Dongshih. I served there for a year teaching English, teaching adults and kids, and now I’m here!
Q: Can you share about the work you are doing with AALEAD?
A: I’m the Parent Outreach Coordinator, but for the fall semester, I’ll also be a Site Coordinator for Thomson Elementary School. I love working with parents, and working in youth development, a lot of people forget about the parents. Especially with elementary school kids, middle school kids. Parents are really the link to get our kids engaged and involved so we want to make sure our parents know what we are doing. That we’re not an aftercare program but we have these targets, we have these goals in mind, that we want to enrich their youths’ lives.
I think we’re going to try to combine these two positions in a sense, especially because at Thomson, there’s a large Mandarin-speaking population, a lot of Chinese immigrants. The Site Coordinator is sort of the face to go to, so if parents have questions, they go to me and if teachers have questions, they can come to me as well. I’m also there to observe and see how the program is rolling and make sure we are meeting our outcomes and being goal-oriented. So it’s not just parents. It’s with the youth, with staff, and now, with our teachers as well. I kind of see everything! Like…a buffet!
Q: Your favorite memory with AALEAD?
A: We have had a few immigrants just come from China. They’re just fresh, very fresh. When you’re in that situation, you have no idea where to start. It’s been really empowering for them and also, I feel like for me, as well, to be a resource to them. Coming in, these families have no idea how the education system is, so I kind of tell them how it works and what kind of things they would need to register for school and the kinds of resources they do have that they can look into. In my time here, I’ve already registered two students at Thomson Elementary School–they had no idea what to do. I think being able to provide that for them was really good.
Q: Any others?
A: I think for me, every day when I see the youth. Well, especially the elementary school kids. I just get really excited seeing them grow. So it wouldn’t just be one moment, I think it’s a collective. Just seeing these kids grow and becoming responsible and becoming leaders has just been rewarding.
Q: What is a life motto or slogan that you like to live by, Charles?
A: I have a lot, but right now, it’s “be open to change.” That kind of just means, whatever is going on in your life, be open to doing something different. It’s always comfortable for us as people to always try do the same things or to do what we naturally instinctively want to do. But being open to change means in your life throughout, whether it be at home, with your friends, at work, trying something new and seeing how you can apply it to life.
I guess I found myself in transition. One you’re in transition, you’re kind of really lost. You don’t know what to do. Instead of falling back on things that I’ve done in the past, I wanted to be open to change. So this is more personal, but in my room. I have these little cloud cutouts and I write new slogans, inspirational quotes that I make myself. I’ll put them up and I’ll remind myself throughout the day. It’s very easy!
Q: You’re a singer, you love music. What song would you say represents you?
A: Well, I’ve been writing songs. So one song I wrote it called “Tell Me Something Good.” How it starts off is, you’re in a bad place, but you want others to tell you something good. But it progresses into the world, walking by and seeing people around you and being that person to tell them something good. I’m not finished with the song but that’s where I’m at.
Q: Your favorite line?
A: Would you tell me something good/I want to hear it/Would you tell me something good, I need it. It’s not just about yourself. Music sometimes is really personal, but it’s about reaching out.
Q: If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?
A: There’s a lot, but I think…hate? Hate. I guess that’s one. That’s something I don’t see that’s needed in the world. I think that’s something that’s prevalent in the world, but we don’t know need that. It’s a very strong word too. I tell my kids every time they say “I hate this,” “I hate doing this”…do you really mean that? That’s a really strong word. I’m not comfortable with hate.
Q: In closing, my favorite question. One word to describe AALEAD?
A: It’s necessary. Necessary, because I feel like being in the program, being around the people, being with the staff, I just feel like I need that in my life. Even though it’s only been a short time, it’s become something that means a lot to me. So…necessary.