My Favorite AALEAD Moment, pt1.

By: Pallavi Rudrataju, VA Middle School Program Coordinator; and Ha Nguyen, Development & Communications Associate

Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

The Back to School season is finally upon us. Here at AALEAD, this is the time where our program staff work even more diligently together to kick off the AALEAD’s After School and Mentoring Programs for the new school year across each of AALEAD school and community sites in the District of Columbia, Fairfax County in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland. This September, we will make a visit to each AALEAD office to have a chat with the Program Staff there to gain some insights on what their work looks like!

We stop by the Virginia office this week to ask Pallavi, our VA Middle School Program Coordinator:

“What was your favorite moment working with AALEAD?”

“In my past year on the AALEAD Virginia team, I’ve participated in one year of after-school programs, two summer programs, and shared countless good memories with my youth and fellow program staff. Although programs aren’t all fun and games, having fun and playing games are an integral and enjoyable part of each day at AALEAD. One of my favorite recent memories as program staff came during our 2018 SYPC Camp, a leadership retreat for each batch of summer program high school youth leaders. SYPC Camp in 2017 was my first opportunity to spend intentional time with AALEAD youth as a program coordinator, and it was such a great experience for me and our high school youth that I wanted to ensure SYPC Camp 2018 was just as great, if not better.

In the months leading up to SYPC Camp, in addition to general camp planning, I also created a special teambuilding activity with our youth. Knowing how much AALEAD youth enjoy Korean entertainment, I decided to adapt activities from the popular variety show, Running Man, and made my own AALEAD Running Man challenge. For those of you that don’t know, Running Man is a fun, multi-tiered game in which teams (or individuals) participate in a series of challenges to become the winning team or winner! I came up with a series of 3 challenges with a final showdown at the end. The winning team for each challenge would receive something special which would help them in the final showdown, the name tag elimination game.

When it came time for the Running Man Challenge, everything was perfect. Though it had rained much that day and the day before (and would the following day, too), during the two hours that we played there was miraculously no rain! Our first activity was called “This Blows!” – youth had to knock a line of plastic cups on their table, using only big gusts of air. The second challenge was called “1 vs. 100” – each team had to finish eating 100 pieces of food as quickly as they could, but could only eat 4 pieces at a time, and could only pick up the food with their mouths! The final challenge was a pit ball challenge in which each team had to gather as many balls into their bucket as possible in the span of 5 minutes. You can probably imagine how silly these games ended up being. Youth began to pick up on strategy as the challenges progressed. I was very happy to see youth cheering their team members down to the last player, even when they knew they had already lost. For the final name tag elimination, each team did a great job and employed unique strategies I hadn’t seen before despite watching many episodes of Running Man! Though there was only one winning team, everyone had fun.

At the end of that day, we all sat around the campfire and shared our “Glows and Grows” for the day. I was pleasantly surprised to hear many youth listing the Running Man activity as their “Glow” for the day. One response that really stuck with me is when a rising sophomore explained why he enjoyed the challenge so much. He shared that his life is difficult and he has a lot of struggles, but when he was playing Running Man, he could forget about all of it and just be a kid again. I was really happy to have provided our youth with a few hours of fun but had no idea the extent of its impact on them. I realized that even though our workshops exploring identity, leadership, and career opportunities are important, our games, icebreakers, and name games are just as vital to youth development. In addition, I realized something about myself – I enjoy receiving feedback and affirmations for my work, and I appreciate it, even more, when it comes directly from the people I serve. The youth are the reason I do what I do!”

Stay tuned to see which AALEAD Program Staff we will visit next week!

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