By Yonsoo Kang, VA Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
We just had our winter holiday party at Holmes and Poe Middle Schools, so the past two days have been both fun and busy. I noticed the middle school holiday parties embodied core values of AALEAD, such as leadership, family, kindness, collaboration, enthusiasm, and finding your voice. A lot of AALEADers stepped up to help make the party successful because a few things were different this year.
First, VA AALEAD decided that we were going to have separate parties at our respective programs this year. Faced with double planning, I decided to step back and provide opportunities for the middle school Youth Council members to do majority of the brainstorming, planning, and execution for their party during our December youth council meeting. We whittled down a long list of food and supplies that needed to be bought and assigned different roles each council member was going to play. The different groups would be responsible for food preparation, cutlery set up, arranging tables, decorations, and game and drinks set up. Each council member would lead a group of AALEADers to prepare for the party when school ended. The council members decided to lead a speech together to welcome their classmates, direct the audience to the food, and inform everyone of the planned agenda.
Second, individual AALEADers took responsibility by adapting to unexpected situations. Just like any planned event, there are unexpected changes. My usual response would be to jump in and take control but I promised myself to provide direction and be a soundboard for ideas. I am glad I did that because so many AALEADers took initiative. For example, when a Poe youth council member was running late, our new AALEADer, Polly T., quickly took charge of the seating and table arrangements with patience and grace. Youth are eager to help and incredibly creative in offering alternative solutions when things do not go as planned. My experience with these two parties has taught me to break away from old leadership habits, put more trust in young people, and step back so other leaders can grow.
Finally, youth from both sites wanted to focus more on eating and socializing instead of having predetermined activity stations. The free time turned out to be crucial because AALEADers from both sites broke out of their shells and mingled with others who they did not really know very well.
New Holmes AALEADer, Camille G. stood up and in a short speech, she told everyone about how this is the most number of friends she has had in her life and wanted to thank us for helping her build her confidence. Youth and adults even came together to support one of their own. During the Poe celebration, Mylynh covered for me when I had to step out with a student because she was upset that her friend, another AALEADer, was moving and changing schools. Sitting next to each other on the floor with our backs resting on the lockers, we talked about how it hurts to lose friends and why it is ok to cry and feel they way you feel. We spoke long enough where Mylynh came out of the classroom to bring food for the me and student allowing us to continue the important conversation. When we returned to the classroom, many youth encouraged the AALEADer to join their table.
The following phrases have been in my head lately and they perfectly describe the last two days:
“Opportunities arise from challenges.”
“Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.”
“Your success is based on not only your achievements, but also how you bounce back from set back.”
It’s gonna be great! #igbg
I also want to give a special shoutout to our former intern, Eileen Chen and her uncle’s restaurant, PING by Charlie Chiang’s, for providing the massive food donation to both parties. Your continued generosity allowed so many young people to enjoy the party.