By Lili Greenstein, Development & Communications Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
As I began this experience, I expected the typical internship position: filing, drafting cookie cutter tweets, instagram posts and other busy work. What I didn’t expect was to feel more morally and ethically connected to any other organization that I’ve worked for. AALEAD embodies the most important youth development component that I believe is crucial to success. Here, we don’t care if youth are the smartest, the most athletic, or the most popular in school, instead we care about who each youth is as an individual and how each youth can change the world.
After shadowing different programs in both Maryland and DC, I realized that the youth, either aware or unaware, were growing as people through the assistance and support of the AALEAD staff. Each youth member shared a similar sense of enthusiasm to share and learn, more so than any other youth group that I have witnessed before.
I was incredibly moved by this and realized that as a Development & Communications Intern, I had an amazing opportunity to share the youth’s stories and growth with the world. I was able to do this through creating the #BecauseOfAALEAD campaign as a way to share the unique, personal experiences of the youth to bring awareness to the organization and its mission statement.
Through this campaign, I wanted to stress that everyone has a story that can be shared. There are no limits, no main focus, just the youth’s experiences.
When first visiting AALEAD’s Mt. Pleasant program site for the DC Middle & High School Program to take photos for #BecauseOfAALEAD, I attended a special all boys program. Usually, the youth meet in groups that are co-ed, but this week they were separated in order to discuss more relevant issues pertaining to their specific circumstances. Going into the program, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the youth in terms of their responses. However, they surprised me by being more insightful and charismatic than I could have ever imagined. The youth took the campaign to heart, keeping in mind their own experiences and the potential experiences of future youth members. I was extremely happy and appreciative of their contributions and believe that their responses were due to the nature of the organization itself.
In programs, the youth are encouraged to openly discuss their feelings, thoughts and experiences in a safe, unbiased and judge-free environment. This is apparent even in the way the youth carry themselves walking in and out of programs. Their spirit and eagerness to contribute and learn radiate through their smiles and through their actions between one another. This is truly an organization that not only promotes and fosters youth development and growth, but truly embodies it on all levels. I am honored to have been part of an organization such as AALEAD and am truly thrilled to launch our #BecauseOfAALEAD campaign to allow others to read about and learn what AALEAD can do for them in the future.