How the AALEAD Community Supports Youth

By Stephanie Lim, DC Middle and High School Program Coordinator & AALEAD DC Middle and High School Youth
Photos Courtesy of Stephanie Lim

The beginning of another cycle of after-school programming is an exciting and busy time for staff and youth.

Staff have been hard at work preparing lesson plans and activities for their respective programs, and youth are getting back into the swing of spending their time after school with old and new peers to learn from. Things move quickly here, though, and we can occasionally lose sight of the magic happening underneath the surface. Youth will undoubtedly face periods of doubt throughout the school year as they navigate their academic and personal lives. Staff will go through cycles of feeling as though their efforts are not making a difference.

But like I mentioned, there is always something humming underneath the surface, even when it’s not obvious.

Some DC Middle and High School youth recently shared the ways in which the AALEAD Community supports them:

1. They can vent to each other and their program coordinator about school, the future, and general uncertainties

2. They can receive mental and emotional support just by being around each other

3. There’s always laughter to be found in programs

Since our DC Middle and High School Program occurs at neighborhood libraries and not in schools, youth make a decision to come back to programs year after year. I am so proud of these young people for being there for one another, laughing together, and ensuring that they and their peers have the support they want and need. It is inspiring to me as staff to see these youth achieve what so many adults fail to grasp about the idea of a community and community-building in practice. It truly takes work. I’m glad to say that the youth I see every week are indeed applying that and learning from the relationships they build with each other.

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