MD Summer CommUNITY: Highlights & Reflections

By: Rochielle Canare, MD Middle School Program Coordinator and Maggie Chu, MD High School Program Coordinator

Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

After a year of fully online after-school programs, Maryland AALEAD youth and staff spent July engaged in a three-week, action-packed summer program together at Wheaton Regional Park and online! 

Through our 2021 Summer theme, “CommUNITY – Stronger Together,” we forged a stronger commUNITY of Asian American and Pacific Islander youth. We also held an AALEAD Olympics where we focused on health and wellness overall (physical, emotional, mental, social). 

In-person activities included creating team flags, tie dying t-shirts, and a self-defense guest workshop.

In our virtual sessions, youth learned mental wellness and leadership skills, such as mindful breathing exercises, journaling, and how to give a master-class “Ted Talk” style presentation.

After a thrilling last day of grilling and pinata smashing at the park, we asked Maryland Staff to share their summer experience below:

Rochielle’s Reflections

One of my favorite virtual summer memories was creating a flag that included the background of our names and a shield of our strengths. We held our individual flags up to the camera and together was able to make one group flag! I thought it was a nice way to bring a sense of community across the digital barrier – we could visually see everyone’s individual backgrounds, culture, and aspects of identity that also connects us to each other.

One of my favorite in-person summer memories was of an activity where teams needed to create the longest paper chain using the five Olympic ring colors. One of the teams came up with an unexpected and creative solution that was well within the instructions I gave – it was a reminder that you can’t always predict how the activities you plan will go!

Teams compete to build the longest “Olympic” chain using strips of color paper and tape.

Annaliu’s Reflections

I really enjoyed seeing youth collaborate and be creative. From doing PowerPoint karaoke to charades, I was able to witness youth confidence grow while engaging in an opportunity for some fun and silliness. Even though I was only able to participate virtually, it was great getting to know the youth and participate in activities with them. 

I had the chance to facilitate a few workshops related to mental health with the youth this summer. This is something that is really important to me and I was glad to have conversations with youth about this topic. Not only was this rewarding, but I learned that I am capable of more than I thought. I really appreciated being able to be a part of AALEAD’s summer program and having this experience! 

MD Summer & Community Engagement Intern, Annaliu, leads a workshop on Stress and Coping.
Summer Youth Program Coordinators (SYPCs) lead middle school youth in a game of charades

Maggie’s Reflections

It feels like just yesterday we kicked off our summer programs! My first summer with AALEAD flew by so quickly and was filled with so much excitement and joy from our youth. There were so many good memories from virtual and in-person days. 

I think our whole last day was filled with so many great moments. One of our wrap-up activities had the youth perform a skit where the plot would be based on a lesson learned throughout the summer. The final project ended with a coming of age skit about the harms of bullying and an action filled tale of how teamwork can help you defeat obstacles in your way!

Youth pose around the pinata (before and after!)
Team Lotus in costume before presenting their final skit

Throughout the whole summer though my favorite part was seeing each and every youth become more confident in themselves and their abilities. From improv games to team presentations, staff and youth helped create a space where we could all grow and come together as AALEAD.

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