National Mentoring Month: Ha and Christina

By Ha T., Current AALEAD Mentor and Christina L., Current AALEAD Youth
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Every January, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Program celebrates National Mentoring Month. National Mentoring Month is a time for us to acknowledge the great work that our AALEAD mentors do. Our Mentoring Program wouldn’t be the same without their passion, commitment, and dedication. We are deeply appreciative of and thankful for their support of our youth. This post highlights Ha and Christina, one of our mentoring pairs, whose reflections remind us that the impact of mentoring runs both ways. Happy National Mentoring Month! -Stephanie Lim, Mentoring & Volunteer Programs Coordinator

Christina & Ha at Comcast Cares Day 2015

Ha’s Story: Who would have thought that a short one page article about AALEAD in the October 2014 issue of Asian Fortune Magazine would push me to apply and become a mentor? Not me.

Upon graduating college, I wanted to do something meaningful and worthwhile. Having participated in the SEARAC-LAT (Southeast Asian Resource Action Center Leadership and Advocacy Training), ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union), and NCORE (National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher American Education) during my college years, I learned more about my identity, the importance of mentorship, and finding my voice; I wanted to connect with others that shared similar experiences. When I read that AALEAD’s Mentoring Program was available at my alma mater, Annandale High School, I thought it was a unique opportunity and one I wished I had been offered as a high school student. Being a first generation college student, I understood the importance of empowering youth and being a mentor because there were not many mentorship programs which catered to Asian Americans when I attended high school. I decided to become a mentor because AALEAD’s Mentoring Program offered an opportunity to provide something that I did not have.

In April 2015, I was paired with my mentee, Christina. She is a creative, caring, hard-working, silly, and ambitious young lady. It has not been a year since we’ve been paired, yet it seems like we have known each other forever. She is the little sister I never had (cheesy and clichĂ©d, I am aware). We bounce jokes off one another, encourage each other to work harder and socialize more, and talk regularly about daily happenings in our lives or one of the many TV shows we watch. From painting murals at Comcast Cares Day, to exploring new places during last year’s AALEAD Mentoring Scavenger Hunt, eating, cooking, and shopping, we are constantly communicating and hanging out. It is a privilege to be able to see her go through this stage of her life by stepping into leadership roles (being an AALEAD Youth Council member!), as well as preparing for college. I remember the struggles of balancing school work, hanging out with friends, and other aspects of life. I hope that she knows that I will be here for her whenever she needs advice or encouragement. It has already been a rewarding journey being Christina’s mentor; I cannot wait to see her enter the new phases of her life in the next couple of years!

Christina & Ha at the Mentoring Holiday Fair 2015

For Christina’s section of this post, Ha asked her four questions:

How did you find out about AALEAD? Well, I found out through my friend who got recruited at the school lunches by Shaima (VA Programs Manager).

Why did you want a mentor? I wanted a mentor to help show me the ropes with stuff concerning college, jobs, and my future. I wanted someone who would help me find a way to prepare myself for my own future. I also wanted someone other than my best friends to hang out with because as much as I love my friends, I definitely wanted an older guide who’s a little wiser than I am and can give me advice when I need it.

What’s your relationship with Ha like? The coordinators of the Mentoring Program are really good at what they do. I mean, I thought my mentor was going to be cool – which she is – but she’s so much like me it’s insane! Ha and I connect really well, and we share a lot of common hobbies like reading and bonding over TV shows. Of course, food, too, because who doesn’t love food? We try different types of foods, talk about cultural diffusion, and global issues. Recently, we haven’t done much community service, and I really want to log more hours of community service.

Why did you run for AALEAD youth council? This is my second year in AALEAD, and I’ve gotten the hang of things from my experiences last year. I also wanted more leadership positions in AALEAD because I’m good with helping out, so I’d be able to assist Shaima as well as the other AALEADers. So far, it’s been really great. I’ve helped prepare parties the past two years, but this year, I’ll be able to help plan and give lessons of my own at our VA Middle School Program, which is exciting. Overall, the AALEAD Mentoring Program and VA High School Program have helped shape me to become a better person, and I look forward to growing more as an individual.

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