By: Saadia Ahmad, DC Elementary School Program Coordinator, and Alexa L., AALEAD Youth
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff
On November 2nd 2019, AALEAD hosted a fundraising Annual dinner in efforts to raise awareness for supporting Asian Pacific American youth and the importance of our stories to be heard.
Amongst many speakers, the highlight was our youth keynote speaker, Alexa L, who is in 5th grade and is also part of AALEAD youth council. This blog post will highlight Alexa’s speech from that night where you can see her passion to tell her story and the impact that AALEAD has had on her:
American actress Sabrina Bryan said, “You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus and the support”. Good evening everyone, my name is Alexa L.
I am 10 years old and I’m a 5th grader at Bancroft Elementary School. I have been part of AALEAD for almost 7 years. I moved to America permanently in 2012.
I was 3 years old and did not want to leave the Philippines and cried for the entire first week. My parents moved to America to seek better opportunities and a better life for themselves and their family. They worked hard and persevered but even then it was difficult for them in the beginning and they faced many challenges.
For example, my mom started out as a waitress, leaving me and my sisters at daycare. Eventually she had to quit because me and my sister were constantly getting sick and her manager wouldn’t let her leave because she didn’t have many off days.
My family and friends are the most important thing to me because I can always count on them for support. Growing up, My grandma was my hero as she took care of me when my parents had to work to provide for my family. I love her as she’s always there to take care of me and my family and makes sure we are happy.
Similarly, my parents and my sisters, Alecille and Angela always make sure I have fun and they make me smile and laugh even in my darkest days. My older sister Alecille plays a huge role in my life adjusting in America. When I moved here, I didn’t know any English and she used to translate for me. I never thought I’d be good in English, which would have been sad as I love to read. Now, English is my first language.
I consider my friends my family also. Some of my closest friends came through AALEAD. My friend Sandy, who I’ve known for 7 years and Daisy, who I’ve known for 2 years, lift me up with their fun and energetic personalities when I’m going through a rough time. They always believe in me and that encourages me to reach my goals.
In my spare time I enjoy reading fantasy books, writing stories and poetry and being creative while drawing and dancing. AALEAD has taught me how to take care of myself physically and mentally and use my hobbies to clear my mind and regulate my emotions.
Even though my parents would let me choose any after-school program, I’d still choose AALEAD. In my 7 years in AALEAD I’ve learned and grown in so many ways. It has opened my eyes on issues that I was oblivious to. For example, hearing stories about immigrants just like my family, who had to leave their countries due to stuff like war, famine and discrimination was very new and heartbreaking to me. I learned how each story and their challenges were unique yet very similar.
Through AALEAD I got the opportunity to get to know and meet amazing people. It has helped me to stay connected with friends I’m not classmates with anymore. Instead of seeing someone as just a classmate, through AALEAD I was able to see them as a friend.
One of our truths in AALEAD is “We are all different and we celebrate that” This has helped me to understand diversity and empathize with people more. This made me discover my passion for travelling so that I can meet new people, learn new languages, hear their stories and learn from them.
AALEAD is something I look forward to even on a bad day. Recently, I took a trip to the Philippines and upon my return to America, I had major jet lag. I could barely stay awake in class. But something that drove me to keep going was seeing the cute faces of AALEAD youth and learning something new through a fun lesson.
AALEAD has helped me meet some inspiring people such as my youth mentor, Agatha, who is part of AALEAD high school program and is a youth council member just like me. I connected with her when I found out that we both love listening to KPOP, we’re both Filipino American and we both have stage fright.
AALEAD never stops supporting me. It helps my parents because they cant pick me up early. They don’t have to worry because they know their children are in good hands. We always talk about what we learned in AALEAD on the walk home from school because we are always eager to share.
AALEAD supports us and always teaches us the importance of untold stories in the world. Inspired by that, last year in AALEAD youth council, we created a podcast to share our stories of migration to America and the challenges that we and our families faced. I believe, podcasts like these are important because it helps raise awareness and unites people to make a change and know that they’re not alone.
One story that particularly stood out to me was of a friend that shared that she would be the first to finish school in her family and go to college as her parents did not finish their education as they couldn’t afford it. Just like my parents, her parents also moved to America so she could have a better life.
This story helped me realize how much I still have to learn about my friends, my community and the world.
This is why programs like AALEAD are so important and unique. My hope is that there are more programs like AALEAD to support youth like me so that our stories can be heard.
I will finish with a poem that I wrote.
Untold stories await to be shared
If only the cruel unfair world cared
Land of opportunities
Is filled with insensitivities
Stories of immigration
So much discrimination
Please take each life into account
Because each story counts