Letters Of Care

By Saadia Ahmad, DC Elementary School Program Coordinator

Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

This picture represents joy, this picture conveys possibilities, this picture embodies leadership, this picture expresses happiness, this picture is our identity, this picture exuberates hope, this picture is our community, this picture is our future, this picture is our Elementary School Program.


In October 2017, one of AALEAD’s longest running programs was notified of an unexpected and heartbreaking news that it would lose its funding at Thomson Elementary School where AALEAD has been part of the community for over 15 years. While this left us all shocked, angry and disappointed, it also brought our community together in a time of need and only made us stronger. There was something so powerful about seeing these young people come together and raising their voice to help save the program.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King Jr

From elementary to high school programs, our AALEAD youth decided to testify, write messages and letters to the DC City Council for two budget oversight hearings happening this month (April 2018). This was an effort to continue funding for our program. Their honesty, concern and love in these letters was heartwarming to see and shows what an impact AALEAD has had on their lives.

One of the parents of our kindergarten youth said in their testimony recently “DCPS does a wonderful job on math and reading, but I feel AALEAD fills in the gap”. This is what AALEAD takes pride in. Our program helps equip youth with tools to navigate through their adult years from a very early age by giving them opportunities to grow as leaders; creating safe spaces for them to understand the sources of stress that affects the mental health of Asian American young people – like living up to the “model minority” stereotype; difficulty of balancing two different cultures and communicating with parents; and discrimination or isolation due to racial or cultural background and its impact on society for generations to come.  

Whatever the outcome of these budget hearings, AALEAD will continue to fight for it’s young people – ensuring that they will always have a safe space to grow. Nothing can takeaway the sense of belonging they feel at our program. No matter where they go, our youth will always be a part of the AALEAD family.

Excerpts of letters written by our youth to the DC City Council:

“Please support Thomson. Thomson is an amazing place. One summer break I went to Thomson for summer school and it was one of the best 3 months of my life. They’re all so supportive. AALEAD teaches me things I don’t learn in school. They teach me things that change my perspective on the world. They teach me about identity, origins, careers, racism, stereotypes (etc) Without AALEAD I wouldn’t be who I am: A strong, confident and clever young lady. AALEAD has impacted my whole life. I hope that with your funding AALEAD can continue to impact more lives one student at a time” – Alecille (5th grade)

“WE NEED AALEAD. Please give us money. AALEAD is really important to many people. When our teacher said that there might not be AALEAD next year, everybody got very sad (including me) It is not fair that other programs can stay. Just because they don’t focus on math and English, it does not mean they can stop giving us money. AALEAD is like the earth with people together but suddenly a comet hits us because of something not important” – Xin-Tong (3rd grade)

“I have been part of AALEAD for 61/2 years and during those years AALEAD has kept me through thick and thin. Even though I’m in 5th grade and next year I won’t be in AALEAD anymore, I would do almost anything to save it. AALEAD teaches you about what’s going on in the real world. They teach you about different occupations and how you can get them. AALEAD lets us be who we want to be and they are very supportive and loving community” – Nora (5th grade)

“Because of AALEAD I learned and experienced new things. I met new people and they helped me become a better person. In AALEAD I learned that things might look difficult but it can still be possible. AALEAD is unique because I learn things that I don’t usually learn” – Jenny (4th grade)

#SaveAALEAD – Alexa, Sandy, Vinh, and Andy

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