By Charles Kuo, DC Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
I first met Bhadon S., an AALEAD intern at the time, during his surprise birthday party held by Tina N. (former AALEAD Mentoring and Volunteer Programs Manager). Many staff shared how proud they were of Bhadon and how he was an inspiration to all of them. It was beautiful to see and I was even more impressed when I found out that Bhadon was a former AALEAD youth! Flash forward to a year later (2015), Bhadon approached me about applying for a staff role in our DC Elementary School program. Since then, he has been a great member of the Summer program team and has inspired both youth and staff. As a youth worker, Bhadon is inspiring and intentional. As a peer, Bhadon is kind and endearing
Check out my interview with him below and discover Bhadon’s story from “Youth to Youth Worker”:
Who are you? What’s your history with AALEAD? How long were you in youth programs? My name is Bhadon S. I am a Teaching Assistant at the Summer AALEAD DC Elementary School program, I am also a college student at the University of Kentucky where I am finishing up two undergraduate degrees. As a youth I have spent 4 years with AALEAD. I started AALEAD in the summer coming into my freshman year of high school.
I first started off as a quiet youth in the Secondary School Program (SSP). I took more responsibility on as the years progressed I served the Youth Council as a representative to the board, Vice President and President. I was also a member of the AALEAD Muslim Council, My final year I helped start up the Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC). During the summer after my senior year of high school I got involved as an intern for the volunteering and mentoring coordinator Tina. When I went away for college I would constantly receive updates on the youth program that made me want to continue my service. After coming back from my first year I was offered a position as a teaching assistant which I was thankful for. I was able to understand and gain knowledge in another realm of AALEAD. I’ve used my knowledge from years of experience to help me facilitate elementary youth growth and progression. I’ve returned to my role every summer for the past three summers as each year has taught me valuable skills in cultivating our youth.
I have always had a deep appreciation for those that devote their lives to youth work. Having gone through youth programs and then going to the other side as a youth worker I appreciate everything a thousand times more.
In your own words, what are qualities of impactful youth worker?
Some characteristics that I find in an impactful youth worker would be passion and adaptability. The reason for passion is that there has to be a drive for one to work with youth, it is far from simple task. There must be something that keeps you going, a feeling that what you are doing is good and that feeling will never give out. It is not about a paycheck it is about changing lives. Adaptability, due to each student being from different backgrounds and coming into a classroom with vastly unique experiences. There is no one size fits all. You have to adjust to different scenarios quickly in order to make the most out of an experience.
Before I attended AALEAD as a youth, I didn’t see many people of Asian American heritage and certainly did not see any programs so greatly devoted to enhancing the youth experience like AALEAD. I wanted to be continue the great work. It is wanting to help youth hone their own potential to make a difference in their life whether by imparting my knowledge or even supporting them through their journey I want to help.
How has your view on youth work changed over the years?
I have always had a deep appreciation for those that devote their lives to youth work. Having gone through youth programs and then going to the other side as a youth worker I appreciate everything a thousand times more. The planning, the meetings, the long hours just to make sure a student could fulfill themselves it is all worth it.
What is your advice for other youth who may be interested in doing youth work? ‘
You should absolutely do youth work. It provides you a greater understand of who you are on both a professional and personal level. It will not be easy but if you want to better yourself and help others I highly recommend doing such. For those a bit more hesitant, there are multiple ways to start youth work, such as volunteering and you’ll fully be supported by staff with the common goal. It is truly worth the time and effort to invest in the future.