I attended a lot of holiday parties over the past two weeks, but my favorite one may have been the one I attended for Asian-American LEAD on Saturday afternoon at Asbury Church in DC.

Why was it my favorite holiday function?  For one simple reason — the joy on the faces of the numerous AA LEAD students, particularly during their talent show and when they received their gifts.   The singing of Christmas carols by the kindergarten and elementary students was simply priceless – I couldn’t stop beaming.    Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a link to the video that was shot at the party – then, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

I’m on the board of directors as well as co-chair of the development committee for AA LEAD (we’re part of the VPP family).   The organization’s mission is “to promote the well-being of Asian American youth and families through education, leadership development, and community-building. We focus on the Vietnamese, Amerasian, and Chinese immigrant and refugee communities” in DC and Maryland.

I still vividly recall the email I received from one of the high school students after I first met with them in ’07.   The young man wrote something along the lines of “…I remember all the info and advice you gave us … I always heard that if you worked hard, then you can be successful, but I always thought that was a myth because I never met a real successful person such as yourself.   But there you were, it was good to meet you and now I know that myth is true.”

That email further validates to me why it’s important to get involved as a mentor or volunteer.  Many of these young students from low-income families in DC don’t have role models (for a multitude of various reasons).  But, if we can show them that hard work and a college education can help make a difference in their lives, then it’s well worth the effort.   When the light bulb goes off in the young student’s mind — and they can see a brighter future — it’s worth any and all work we put in to try to make a difference.    Thanks for allowing me to share this story with you.