Learning about Personal Responsibility and Leadership, and saying “Goodbye” for the Summer!

By Pallavi Rudraraju, DC Elementary School Intern

Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Our AALEAD Ohana at Walker-Jones just finished our fifth and final week of programming, and we can’t believe the month has passed so quickly! From jam-packed field trips to interactive and multi-facted workshops, we’ve done so much in the past five short weeks.

As a fresh change of pace, Ohana received a visit from the Maryland Summer Serve halfway through our third week. The middle and high school youth from Maryland facilitated storytelling workshops with the younger Ohana program. The goal of the workshop was to strengthen self-identity and increase cultural awareness among our youth.

Over the past two weeks, our focus has been on the Hawaiian values of Ho’omau and Kuleana, perseverance and personal responsibility. Teachers have found ways to seamlessly incorporate these values into lesson plans and activities, whether inside the classroom or out. In Weeks 3 and 4, Ms. Madeline and Mr. Jeremy offered unique workshops to their students that blended current events and movements with our core values of Ho’omau and Kuleana, thus providing outlets and solutions for potentially difficult and emotional topics. Both classes discussed issues of police brutality, race, prejudice, and hate crimes, and learned about some ways in which political dissent is expressed.

Above, the rising 5th-and-6th grade class, Kahoolawe, pulls controversial articles on topics ranging from the offensiveness of the Washington Redskins team name to the heartbreak of the massacre in the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. This workshop followed a graffiti workshop, in which the class learned the expressive and political nature of graffiti. Below, in the rising 3rd grade class, Kauai, youth learned how they can protest actions they think are unfair. In response to the threat of housing closing in Museum Square, they drafted a class letter of concern to the Mayor’s office, stating that “the people need to live in there [sic] house because they have family and they need to eat,” “Please let the people stay because some of my friends live there,” and “Please don’t make me leave my home.”

To round off each week was a fun-filled field trip! At the end of week three, our youth had a 2-in-1 field trip to both the Regal Cinemas and Chinatown Park.  To kick off the day, AALEAD went to see Disney’s recent release, Inside Out. The film grappled with difficult subjects such as mental health, personality, and trauma, and presented them in a relatable manner. To prepare youth for the movie’s nature and subject material, our teachers facilitated workshops on the starring emotions of the film – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear – and had the youth critically engage with their emotions and memories. Despite the serious nature of the film, the movie was very funny and entertaining!

After the film, AALEAD traipsed back to the Chinatown park, where youth drew chalk masterpieces, made foam picture frames, and played relay races, courtesy of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs and DC Parks and Recreation.

Last Friday, we ventured out to Great Waves Waterpark in Alexandria, Virginia. We spent hours having a blast at all the attractions, diving into the water to beat the heat. The youth especially enjoyed the Wave Pool, Lagoon Play Pool, and the Speed Slides!

The past five weeks at Walker-Jones have been an absolute blast for all the volunteers, staff, and youth involved. We hope you enjoyed our ending Luau last Friday in which our classes and teachers showed off their final projects to the entire program. From choreographed dances to cooking demonstrations to spoken word poetry, each final product was an amazing culmination of a month’s hard work. Though the program was only for five weeks, we saw many drastic improvements in our youth – from literacy to leadership – and made lasting memories that we will cherish forever.

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