By Catherine Han, Virginia Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos by AALEAD Staff Members
On November 17, 2021, I joined the AALEAD community as Virginia Middle School Program Coordinator, and after being here for a little over a year, my time here at AALEAD is coming to a close. My last day with AALEAD will be on Friday, January 27, 2023.
Transition and new changes are never easy, but it is an experience that we all will go through one day. These experiences shape and help us to grow in ways that we may not realize at the moment. A transition can be big or small and have lots of different feelings associated, but one thing for sure is to take time to reflect, practice gratitude, and feel those feelings.
AALEAD was my first official full-time job. After graduating from college in 2019, I went to grad school immediately and graduated in 2021. I was officially part of the community that adults would talk about, and that is the “real world.” I didn’t exactly know what that meant, and those two words often felt daunting. However, as I reflect on my time here at AALEAD, my heart is truly full. Those two daunting words, the “real world,” dissipated, and I realized I was in charge of my own narrative post-graduation.
AALEAD, my first official full-time job, was more than just a job for me, but rather a beautiful community and such a valuable organization that I wish I had had when I was younger. During my time at AALEAD, I met with exceptional people, from staff members to community partners to the youth and families that I was working directly with.
I was able to create fun and exciting memories. I got to witness my youth experience a lot of “firsts,” from having their first female-identifying Asian American mentor in a school setting to making their first ever spring roll to going to their first ever escape room to meeting other fellow Asian American peers and so much more.
I will miss seeing you all in programs and being able to engage in deep conversations, or us being goofy and laughing about random topics, or you wanting to “spill the tea.” As I begin to transition out and move on to my next chapter, I have so many feelings, from sadness to being so proud of you all to feeling excited. I am sure many of you may have similar feelings, but always know that I will be rooting for each and every one of you on.
My hope for you all is to continue to be your amazing self. You bring so much to the table, so much knowledge and experience. What you say matters, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Keep being proud of your heritage and culture. Try sharing your favorite food with your friends, or talking about what you see in your community and how you can support one another. Lean into your community.
I am so excited to see what the next big thing our AALEAD youth continues to do, and can’t wait to see the future of AALEAD. AALEAD is celebrating 25 years this year, and I hope that the organization will continue to serve and uplift the AAPI community, youth, and families.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of my AALEAD journey! I will hold each of you dearly in my heart. Thank you to the staff members who work tirelessly on the ground for our youth! Your hard work does not go unnoticed! I wish you all only the best and send love to each and every one of you.
Here are some pics during my time here at AALEAD 🤍