By Keo Xiong, MD Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
Over 160 youth and family members joined AALEAD Maryland’s annual kick-off picnic on Friday, October 16, at Wheaton Forest Local Park in Silver Spring – the largest turnout to date! An evening filled with food and fun among friends and families, the picnic brought together new, returning, and alumni AALEADers; Montgomery County, MD and District of Columbia youth; and staff, families, and funders to celebrate another year of AALEAD after-school programs.
Recurring Events, New Traditions
At the beginning of each program year, Maryland programs staff usually plan and host the annual kick-off picnic to welcome youth and families, and celebrate the start of a new year. As we work to support and empower youth leadership, this year’s picnic was a great event for youth to really take ownership of their programs and showcase their leadership capabilities.
With the addition of youth-led activity stations and small group games, AALEADers brought their full energy, creativity, and humor to create a fun, family-friendly, and youth-focused event that was inclusive of all attendees. These youth-led activities, a new tradition to an old event, was quite a hit!
AALEAD youth took lead in creating and facilitating fun and engaging activities and games for their peers, making this picnic a great example of youth-staff collaboration and youth leadership. With the support of their program coordinators during after-school program time, youth at each school planned and prepared activity stations, which they then led at the picnic. The activities included face painting and origami stations, an egg drop challenge, and youth-built skee-ball and corn hole games.
Youth also facilitated small-group icebreakers to encourage and foster cross-site friendships and team-building.
As AALEAD continues to expand programming to support more youth at even more sites throughout the DC metro area, program-wide events such as the picnic provide necessary opportunities for youth to meet one another and continue developing and strengthening relationships across sites and regions. We hope that this picnic has set a strong foundation for cross-site and cross-region collaborations, and hope to see you at the next AALEAD community event!