By Sharon Rajadurai, VA Summer Program Intern; Alani Fujii, MD Summer Program Intern; and Ha Nguyen, Development & Communications Associate
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
On August 2nd, the 2018 AALEAD Origins Summer Program officially concluded after serving over 100 youth grades 6 to 12 across the DC metropolitan area in Montgomery County, MD; Fairfax County, VA; and the District of Columbia. During this summer, AALEAD Program Staff were accompanied by Sharon and Alani to guide our AALEADers to learn about their origins and discover their identities. At the end of their internship, we ask both of them to reflect on their summer experience:
1) What were your first thoughts and observations before you started the internship with AALEAD? What about your internship is the most surprising to you (i.e., what did you least expect going into the experience)?
Alani: Because I was a former youth, I felt pretty familiar with how the structure of the summer program would go for the youth. As an intern, I knew that I would be in a support position to help run the program, build relationships with youth, and plan some programming! AALEAD serves such an important role for young people that I knew that I wanted to make this summer transformative for the youth. I was not expecting how much impact the youth would have on me, and how that helped me think about their activities during the program.
Sharon: I was really drawn to AALEAD’s mission and I loved how the focus was on underserved AAPI youth, a demographic that is not talked about a lot even in social justice spaces. I was most surprised by how I was treated as an intern. Stereotypically, interns are not treated as well as other employees and are not included as much, but I always felt that I was very well respected, that my work was valued and that I was included as a member of the team. AALEAD created a very safe and welcoming internship environment and I could not be more grateful.
2) What new skills have you learned since beginning your experience? What types of tasks did you discover that you enjoy or excel at completing? Have you identified any skills or areas that you would like to further develop?
Alani: One new skill that I have learned is curriculum planning, and what an awesome responsibility it is to be able to shape the experiences of a young person in a positive way. It was a long process developing the curriculum about understanding the world through spoken word, but I appreciated all the questions and support I had along the way. I want to continue to develop my public speaking skill and nurture my desire to change how people view aspects of the world.
Sharon: I have learned that I can captivate the attention of a classroom fairly naturally and that I am able to engage students in a learning environment. I discovered that I enjoyed leading workshops and educating students. This is something that I
3) What pushed you outside of your comfort zone? Or, what was the biggest challenge you encountered?
Alani: The biggest challenge I encountered was learning how to work with a small team on a summer program with so many moving parts. I definitely learned a lot from being a part of the MD team
Sharon: I am from Massachusetts and moving to Virginia this summer was a push outside my comfort zone. I knew very few people here and was beginning an internship that I knew very little about. My commute was also a lot longer and tiresome than I expected, but I am glad I pushed through it and continued my internship because it was definitely worth it. The biggest challenge I encountered was being able to work spontaneously. A lot of times with youth, you have to expect the unexpected. Becoming okay with my plans not always working out was a challenge but I eventually got the hang of it.
4) What was the most important thing you learned about yourself? What was your greatest accomplishment or reward?
Alani: The greatest accomplishment for me was the relationships I built with the youth. I think it is a blessing that I was able to meet these people in this lifetime
Sharon: The most important thing I learned about myself was that I live in the intersection of various identities. Being Indian American, but also Christian, sometimes I found myself being able to relate to the struggles of American ethnic minorities but not necessarily religious minorities. Being at AALEAD and learning about intersectionality in the workshops, I found myself embracing the intersection of my race and my religion. My greatest accomplishment was leading a workshop about community and how it affects identity. I felt as though the youth were really engaged eager to learn and I felt honored to lead them in discussion.
5) How, if any, will this internship experience change your future behaviors, attitudes, and career?
Alani: This internship experience has reiterated to me that young people are the future. It has taught me that serving young people – in a way that supports their personal development and growth, that invests in them, that cares about what they have to think and their dreams – is a moral obligation.
Sharon: Although I am still not sure exactly what the future holds for me, I can say that this experience with AALEAD has helped me see that working with youth is something that I have a natural ability in. So there is definitely a possibility that in some capacity, I could see myself working with youth in the future.