By Stephanie Lim & Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Stephanie Lim, AALEAD Staff
As we kick off the start of a new school year, Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) staff are always excited to reunite with youth, but also, another very important part of our AALEAD family – our volunteers. This month’s spotlight focuses on Jimmy, an AALEAD volunteer who started working with us in October 2012 at the beginning of his college career. Jimmy is now a senior at the University of Maryland College Park, and we can’t believe how much the time has flown! From spending time tutoring AALEAD youth with their homework to having fun with them during lesson time, he has contributed so much to our programming and has left a lasting impact on our youth. We are so proud to share Jimmy’s AALEAD story with you and look forward to hearing more about what he achieves in this next chapter of his life. Thank you to Jimmy and all of our volunteers for your commitment and support – we are so grateful to have you as a part of our AALEAD family and could not do the work that we do without you!
Jimmy first started volunteering with AALEAD after learning about our volunteer opportunities three years ago.
“[The University of Maryland’s Leadership & Community Service-Learning website] listed AALEAD as one of the options. I was trying to find a place that was either within walking distance or close enough to a Metro station so I could just walk over. I thought [AALEAD] was the most interesting [organization]” and as an added bonus, “it was also close to the Metro.”
Speaking on the community AALEAD serves, Jimmy shares: “The fact that AALEAD serves Asian Pacific American youth did have some impact on [my decision] to volunteer [here]. Since AALEAD serves the Asian Pacific American community, and since I am an Asian American myself, I thought I could better relate to the youth in terms of my ethnicity. It is also very nice to serve and give back to the Asian American community, although it is nice to give back to other communities as well.”
Furthermore, he says: “I try to relate to the youth at AALEAD by being a good role model, but at the same time being lax and fun because youth at this age shouldn’t be too stressed or yelled at often. I hope my relatively young age also helps the youth feel more comfortable with me.”
Jimmy emphasizes an important reason why giving back is significant to him: “Going and helping out youth at the after school program is really nice because [the youth] can do their homework, and they have people to help them. When I was younger, some of my friends [and I] would just do our homework. Sometimes we didn’t [understand] what the content was.”
He says that what has kept him coming back year after year is “a combination of seeing the youth grow” and “giving back to the community.” Now in his final year at the University of Maryland College Park, Jimmy is at Bancroft Elementary School once a week, every Thursday.
When asked what he hopes to leave behind, Jimmy shares: “The stuff that [the youth] remember, the stuff that I helped them in, like math and English – I hope that really sticks with them, and they really apply that to something bigger and better. It’s important to grow the youth and help them be successful because they are the future. I hope my assistance with them in the after school program really helps them define who they are when they grow up and really helps them develop.”
Because he plans on studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) next semester, Jimmy is unsure of whether or not he can continue to volunteer every week. His academic majors are chemical engineering and pre-med. “After graduation, my main plan is to go to medical school and become a surgeon. I believe the skills I learned from my chemical engineering classes, such as problem solving, leadership, and teamwork, will really help me become a better doctor.”
Despite Jimmy’s strong interest in medicine and engineering, he says: “I definitely wouldn’t rule out going into education or youth work because working with youth and young adults is very interesting and fulfilling. You get to see them grow up and contribute to a better world and society. This volunteer experience actually really helped me realize that going to medical school is the right path for me because I am so passionate about helping others and seeing others succeed. Coupled with my love for science, going to medical school seems like the perfect fit for my strengths and passions.”
Jimmy’s impact on the youth does not go unnoticed. One Bancroft youth shares: “[Mr. Jimmy]’s really funny and really fun to play with. He’s a really good and nice teacher. He’s a really good helper.” She also had this message for him at the end of our conversation: “Dear Mr. Jimmy, please stay funny, and please keep playing with us!”
A fun fact about Jimmy is his nickname with some of the youth at Bancroft. “I don’t remember how it happened, to be quite honest. They all call me [Mr. Sushi] now.”