VA Middle School IGNITES the 2018-2019 After School Programs

By Pallavi Rudraraju, VA Middle School Coordinator

Photo courtesy of AALEAD VA MS youth

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and family. Today I wanted to give you a sneak peek into VA Middle School programs this school year. We have had a plethora of workshops and self-searching activities ranging from Mental Health and Leadership exploration to Asian Pacific American identity and Cross Racial awareness.

For those of you who are not aware, this year, AALEAD’s theme is Ignite: Discover your Passion!

This theme will be explored in all areas of our programs, and in VAMS it has taken form in self-discovery activities to identify our particular passions, interests, and strengths. Youth in VAMS have also ignited their leadership by taking on extra roles in program facilitation, such as photography and leading or explaining activities we engage in. Some of the pictures you see today were taken by our middle school youth!

Here is a look into two workshops youth enjoyed in October and November on Asian Pacific American history and identity

  1. Chinese Restaurant Syndrome 

In October, youth learned about Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, also known as the MSG Scare. In the 1960’s, a fear of the common ingredient MSG became so widespread that many Chinese and Asian restaurants in America were forced to remove it from their cooking. Some restaurant owners went so far as to put up signs in their restaurant windows or labels on their menu reading “NO MSG”. You can see these signs and labels to this day in many Asian restaurants.  However, MSG is a safe ingredient used in many different cuisines and foods – in fact, it is in most chips and packaged snacks. Just don’t eat too much of it! Youth then passed out and ate some Chinese-style egg fried rice as they discussed their opinions on why Chinese restaurants might have been targeted for this common ingredient.

2) Diwali

To kick off November programs, youth learned about the widely-celebrated South Asian holiday of Diwali, also known in the West as Festival of Lights. In Hinduism, Diwali is like a fresh start – Hindus will clean their houses and spiritually cleanse themselves. We often will receive new clothes to mark this cleansing. Hindus also light deepas or diyas outside of their front doorstep to guide Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity to their homes, in the hopes that she will bless us. Beautiful rangoli powder designs decorate the front entrance to welcome Lakshmi and any guests into the home.

To celebrate, youth ate jalebis, a popular syrupy sweet, while practicing rangoli art. Afterwards, we went outside and chalked our designs onto the front entrance and blacktop of Holmes and Poe Middle Schools. Our art even made it to the Holmes MS Twitter page!

Some AALEADers stuck with the designs we practiced, and other inspired artists created their own designs based off of South Asian floral aesthetic. Which rangoli pattern is your favorite?

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed learning about what VAMS has been up to this Fall!

Stay tuned to check out what other AALEAD programs have been up to this November!

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