By Mecca McPherson, DC Middle & High School Summer Program Intern and Stephanie Lim, DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
It’s been such a fun summer for us in the DC Middle & High School Summer Program. We’ve visited museums, gotten the ball rolling on some dope summer projects, staff and youth have facilitated activities and workshops, and we’ve survived through some very contentious rounds of Uno. We accomplish this by spending nearly 6 hours a day together, which is a real treat. Being able to spend more time together every day gives us more opportunities to bond and learn about each other. This is especially important, given that we have a mix of new and returning youth. Our DC crew is a tight-knit family so it’s been exciting to witness new friendships form. Having a stronger family makes for a stronger program.
We asked a handful of youth to share what they’ve been gaining from their summer experience so far:
Jason Z. is a rising 8th grader who has returned to AALEAD programs this summer after previously spending 3 years at our Elementary School Program at Thomson. Despite being forced by his mother to join, Jason finds the program fun, since there are many opportunities throughout the day to interact with his peers. Jason says his “shyness is going away”, he’s learning more, and he’s making friends.
Ying L. is a rising 12th grader who originally joined our school-year after school program a year and a half ago after visiting our Chinatown site with a friend. Ying has gained more knowledge and information from workshops such as the one that focused on Vincent Chin. Having deeper discussions about different aspects of the community have been an important gain. She also has opportunities to get to know different people and improve on her communication skills, especially since her peers are of varying ages and come from different cultural backgrounds. Ying also has had opportunities to lead icebreakers and activities and watch her peers do their presentations, which she cites as an important learning experience.
Cindy L. is a rising 11th grader who has been a part of AALEAD for three years. Like many of her peers, Cindy kept coming back because of friends who were also attending programs. She says there is more to do at programs than before. She has especially enjoyed youth-led workshops, and has learned a lot from them. She likes learning about her peers’ personalities, as well as acquiring various life skills. She cites our recent budgeting workshop as an important source of knowledge. She also cites a workshop on Asian American adoption and identity that one of her peers led during the school year, and ends with, “y’all are more real.”
Tom N. is a recent high school graduate who has been with AALEAD for at least 7 years. During his time at our summer program, Tom has learned more about peers he previously did not know well, learned about how he’d like to give back to his community, and learned what makes a good workshop – “It has to not be stale, you can apply life situations to them, and they’re differently formatted.”
One of the newer faces at AALEAD this summer includes our intern, Mecca, who has been delighted to learn about our youth and their interests. She enjoys having the opportunity to create workshops and activities that inspire the youth to think and work as a team, as well as learning more about them on a personal level. She feels closer to the DC Middle & High School Summer Program Family with each day she spends with them.