So Long for Now, AALEAD!

By Pallavi Rudraraju, DC Elementary School Summer Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

I distinctly remember the emotions that washed over me when I received Tina’s e-mail offer to join the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) team for the summer: shock, excitement, eagerness, and a little bit of nervousness. I was thrilled to accept for so many reasons, but mostly because working with AALEAD would mean combining two of my life goals: youth development through teaching and Asian American issues. In college, I had been feeling incredibly frustrated about the unsustainable nature of the work I was doing in my diversity organizations. All of that changed when I started my summer internship with AALEAD. In the past eight short weeks, my frustration has melted off, and my passions and knowledge have been redirected toward tangible work and community engagement through youth leadership and development. In so many ways, this internship has been more than I could hope for.

The past eight weeks with everyone – from staff to volunteers to the wonderful youth – have been an absolute joy. From the get go, my supervisor, Charles, did a fantastic job of creating and reinforcing the Hawaiian idea of Ohana, or family – both in the familial and community sense. During AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Summer Program orientation, we opened up to each other about personal struggles as well as the kind of people in our Ohana. These simulations proved to be vital during summer programming as a way to relate to the youth as well as remind me of the importance and impact of AALEAD’s work with young people. As is to be expected, not everything was smooth sailing. But what stood out with our Ohana at Walker Jones is that whenever the seas got rough, someone was there for you.

In my work at Walker Jones, I had a blend of both the administrative and teaching side of things. For a person whose previous experience with being responsible for youth had involved being a teacher’s assistant for 9th graders and baby-sitting young children, I often felt like a fish out of water the first few minutes of workshops. But the eagerness of the youth, as well as the warm support from class teachers and volunteers gave me the confidence to lead lesson plans in the classrooms.

The most beautiful part of the whole experience for me came in the last couple of weeks of programming as I interviewed some youth on Ohana. Seeing how the youth really began to embody and internalize the Hawaiian values and concepts made me appreciate the work of our staff in reinforcing these important ideas as well as the openness of our youth in receiving these messages. (Please check out my past blogs as well as our 2015 Summer Newsletter for more information on what we did throughout our elementary school summer program at Walker Jones!)

I’m not sure exactly what the future holds or where I’ll be in the next year, but I do know that I’ll definitely be dropping by for a visit again soon. AALEAD has left a permanent stamp on my heart with loving memories and powerful lessons learned. Thanks everyone – and especially Charles, Mylynh, Tina, and Surjeet – for making me a part of your AALEAD family and gifting me with such a wonderful summer! I’ll definitely be applying what I learned from my time at AALEAD to my student organizations in college and wherever life takes me after graduation.

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