By Tina Ngo, Mentoring & Volunteer Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
There have been many things that I’ve learned over the course of my time at Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), but one lesson in particular will always stand out to me. During an after school program session, a young person and I had a discussion about choices and how a single decision can create a ripple effect. I’ll never forget this conversation because AALEAD youth speak truth: the choices that we make impact many aspects of our lives, now and in the future.
Looking back, one of the best choices that I ever made was to move to DC and join the AALEAD family. Though I was uncertain and afraid of making the wrong decision at the time, I knew deep down that I was ready for the challenge and that I was on the cusp of something great. All the memories that I have made with AALEAD will last me for a lifetime. From hot summer days running around on scavenger hunts to important conversations about our nation’s education system with youth and staff, I’m going to take these moments with me wherever I go.
Life is filled with so many adventures, and in the midst of all our hectic days, I hope AALEAD youth, staff, mentors, volunteers, interns, and our amazing community never forget this: every day, you have a choice. When you wake up in the morning, you have a choice to shine with positivity or negativity. When you interact with others, you have a choice to be kind or indifferent. When you reflect on your life and accomplishments, you have a choice to be grateful or unappreciative. I hope you all always choose the former, because to me, there is so much to be grateful for, especially you.
While transitioning from AALEAD is one of the most difficult choices I have had to make, I am choosing to root myself and my experiences in gratitude – because my journey here would not have been possible if not for all of you. So, thank you. Thank you for giving me a chance to experience the love and care that the AALEAD family consists of. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn your stories and share laughter and memories with you. Most of all, thank you for teaching and reminding me a lot of what I know to be true today: that youth are the future, how to be fearless, and that each and every one of you is important, loved, resilient, valued, and powerful beyond measure. While my immediate family helped me find my footing and strength from within, my AALEAD family helped me find my passion and heart. AALEAD has carved out time and space for me to feel comfortable being myself and discover a sense of belonging, which I know the organization will continue to do for our youth and community.
As I close this chapter of my life, I feel so fortunate and unafraid because I’m taking all of my favorite characters – the AALEAD community – with me. It has been an amazing journey, and I look forward to seeing all that’s yet to come. Thank you all for always reaffirming my decision to join the AALEAD family simply by being yourselves; and now, as I make this transition, thank you for reaffirming my decision to explore new horizons. For me, #AALEADFam is forever, so please know that you’ve always got family rooting for you – just now, from both coasts.
With love, light, and gratitude –