By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff and AALEAD Youth
Yesterday two AALEAD summer programs, MD Summer Serve middle and high school program and DC AALEAD Ohana elementary school program, came together to create true connection, engaged learning, and unique leadership experiences. Summer Serve youth led our Ohana youth through a 2-part storytelling workshop. In the first session, Summer Serve AALEADers presented a story that they created and led discussions on the themes of cross-cultural experiences and perseverance. Then, Ohana youth created and shared their own stories based on lessons that they’ve learned in their lives.
Summer Serve youth brought a level of dedication and passion to the day which showed in their workshop outcomes. They prepared for hours in creating their stories, deciding on a meaningful storyline, and structuring their activities and story to allow all youth to get the most out of the day. Summer Serve youth drew from their own experiences to choose the morals of their stories. The themes were varied but all explored cross-cultural and personal identity. Two examples are: learning that people will love you for who you truly are if you just give them the chance (depicted brilliantly through a lion-impersonating-panda) and that existing in multiple cultures and worlds can be a positive experience (as shown to us via a bilingual cat who can both meow and woof!). During their workshops, Ohana youth heard stories about identities and experiences which reflected their own. One can understand how important this is; to see yourself reflected in the stories and books you read allows you to see how valid and important your own experiences are. Summer Serve youth created that experience with Ohana youth.
Yesterday was yet another example of how readily and boldly our AALEADers push themselves to step into big shoes and blow all expectations out of the water. Summer Serve youth truly took on their roles as mentors and role models, providing opportunities for fun and learning while also being responsible for their workshop goals.
In the short time that they had together, Summer Serve and Ohana youth developed close, supportive relationships. In many classrooms, you could see a Summer Serve AALEADer at the front of the classroom to support an Ohana youth in sharing their story with the class, or hear the uproarious laughter of a high school and elementary school youth bonding over shared experience they learned about through their story activity. This is why Summer Serve youth come to programs every day; to find new and meaningful ways to engage with their communities. At the end of the day each of them left understanding the impact they had on the Ohana youth, and, conversely, feeling the imprint that Ohana youth and this experience left on them.
The day can be summed up in the words of the AALEAD Ohana cheer:
“AALEAD is FAMILY. FAMILY is OHANA.”