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11th annual Asian-American LEAD Dinner

Wow, what an amazing night last night.  We held our 11th annual Asian-American LEAD fund-raising dinner at the China Garden in Rosslyn.  The event was a smashing success – we had over 400 guests in attendance and set a record in terms of fund-raising.

As a board member and co-chair of the development committee, this is an important day for our organization.  We need to keep raising funds in this tough economic environment in order to stay afloat and to keep delivering our much-needed services to our students, most of whom come from low-income Asian families in Washington, DC.

The student performances are always a highlight.  Once again, the children – from elementary to high school – delivered a number of terrific performances.  I was also riveted by the moving speeches from two students … both who moved to the US in the past few years.  Their families moved them here to provide them an opportunity to receive a better education.  It must be extremely difficult to come to the US when one doesn’t know the English language nor the customs and traditions.  Yet, these two outstanding students made the move … and they both thanked AA LEAD for helping them get acclimated to the community and to their respective schools.

The other highlights included our keynote speaker, Yul Kwon.   Yul is a good friend of mine who is most known for being the Korean-American that won “Survivor” a few years ago.  He’s also a highly educated and respected business executive.  Yul moved to DC last fall and is now serving as Deputy Commissioner for the FCC.  He delivered a fantastic speech about his perspective of growing up as an Asian-American in the US.  He also stressed the importance of education as well as the importance of organizations such as AA LEAD to help the children achieve their dreams.  We are truly grateful to Yul for addressing the AA LEAD family at last night’s dinner.

The other highlight for me was having the distinct honor of introducing one of my mentors, Mario Morino.  We awarded Mario with the AA LEAD’s first ever Washington, DC LEADer award.  There is no one more deserving.  Mario is the Godfather of Philanthropy for the greater Washington DC region.  He is clearly one of the great Washingtonians of the past 3 decades.  His Venture Philanthropy Partners organizations has helped over 10 of the leading non-profits in the DC positively impact tens of thousand of children.

In delivering the introduction, instead of reading Mario’s impressive bio, I told a real-life story.  I brought my 10-year old mentee, Sally, to the stage with me.  I told the audience  how Mario became one of my primary mentors over 10 years ago.   He asked me to help him meet young up and coming business executives who might become donors to the VPP family.  Four of us have joined the VPP family in the past few years.  Because of VPP, I learned about AA LEAD.  And, because of AA LEAD, I’ve gotten to become part of a terrific organization – and I’ve also become mentors  to 10-year old Sally and her 14-year old brother, Da-Zhi.  I’ve blogged in the past about how I’ve promised to their mother that I will ensure that both of her children attend college (through my personal contributions as well as help with scholarships and grants).  The summary to my intro was that because of Mario Morino, there’s a VPP; because of VPP, organizations like AA LEAD are thriving; because of AA LEAD, I’ve become mentors to two wonderful mentee / students – who are going to go to college and achieve their dreams.  So, it was wonderful for me to introduce my mentor, Mario, to my mentee, Sally, on the stage last night.  Yes, I nearly broke down but I managed to not do so.  But, the smile from last night hasn’t left my face yet.  Last night was a dream come true.

Thank you to AA LEAD staff, students, board members, volunteers and to the many wonderful friends that supported our organization last night.

DC Universities

We held our annual Leadership Council meeting for GWU’s Tourism and Hospitality Management Dept last night.   After getting update from the dept leaders, we held a two-hour dinner for the undergraduate and graduate students.  There were four presentations from LC members, then a lively discussion with students at the various tables we were assigned to sit.

I guess it might be interesting that I have both my undergrad and grad degrees from AU but teach at Georgetown and sit on the Leadership Council at GWU.  The bottom line is that regardless of the school, it’s great to be able to teach and mentor students, give back, share best practices, etc.

I love hearing from the students, especially as they start to make their way into the business world and up the corporate ladder.  It’s also terrific to see some students go on to graduate school while others are involved in Teach for America.  I also ran into one of my top students from the GU class on Tues evening … he’s now in the Navy as a young officer and is about to embark on a 6-month journey in a submarine.  I couldn’t be prouder of him — all my best to Hunter!

Oh, and to keep the DC college theme going on, I’ll be attending my first basketball game at Howard Univ tomorrow night.  We’ll be there to watch Craig Robinson, the new head coach at Oregon State and the brother-in-law of Barack Obama, make his debut.  A few good friends of mine played hoops with Craig at Princeton and we’ll all be there to support him.

Saturday in DC

Wow, what a day yesterday – so much going on!   The first event of the day was the highly anticipated Georgetown – Memphis game at the Verizon Center.   I was invited to watch the game in the suite of President Jack DeGioia of Georgetown University.   The suite was packed with DC’s power crowd, including FBI Director, Robert Mueller; former CIA Director, George Tenet; WSJ’s Al Hunt; writer Mark Shields, etc.

I has also been offered floor tickets from GU’s number one fan, Ted Leonsis.  So, after spending part of the time in the suite, I went and sat in the floor seats with a couple of friends.  The action on the court was action-packed.  Fortunately, our hometown Hoyas pulled out a victory in overtime vs the Memphis Tigers, who were finalists in last year’s NCAA Championship Game.

Next was our staff holiday dinner at the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto in Tysons Corner, hosted by my boss, Ms Tiane Mitchell Gordon and her husband, Len.  This restaurant was terrific (and is recommended).  We had the Chef’s Tasting Menu — it was a fantastic meal — plus lots of stories and laughs.  Oh, and make sure to have the sommelier match the wines w/ the various dishes – they do a great job there of story-telling.

After dinner, the next stop was the annual holiday party of Mike and Sheryl Wilbon.  This is always a terrific party since they have fascinating and terrific friends (Sheryl is the best).  Plus, we met their new son (who has more hair than Mike and I combined).  It’s great to see the continued success of Mike — after many years of being a fixture on the local scene with his great work with the Washington Post, he’s now one of the most popular sports experts in the country with his outstanding work on ESPN’s “PTI” as well as NBA on ABC work.  He continues to be one of the classiest and nicest people in the business.

Thank goodness for Sunday, the “day of rest, ” since it’s definitely needed.   And, the NFL schedule on TV is full of great games today.   Peace.

A magical, special night

What a special, magical night!   We held our annual fund-raising dinner for Asian-American LEAD tonight at the fabulous China Garden in Rosslyn.  We had 450 guests in attendance tonight!

As a member of AA LEAD’s board of directors and co-chair of the development committee, this is our most visible event of the year.  And, thanks to so many wonderful people, including the excellent AA LEAD staff, the event was a smashing success.

Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who graced the cover of Time Magazine in December, was our keynote speaker.   And, she delivered a fantastic and thought-provoking speech.   Washington, DC is fortunate to have someone with that type of vision and leadership in charge of the DC public school system.  There’s so much hard work and improvement that’s needed — and we need this type of visionary leader to help make the changes.

We also had in attendance many business leaders from the Asian-American community, local politicians, bankers and a variety of terrific supporters.   We also had a few special guests, including the Military Attache from the Embassy of China; an executive from the Tiger Woods Foundation; and the reigning Ms Washington DC, Kate Marie, who just finished in the Top 10 of Miss America last month.

There were many highlights, including the five student performances, from elementary school to high school age.   My favorite was the great solo of “Proud to be American” sung by our 4th grade star, Sally.   That takes a lot of guts to stand up and sing a solo in front of 450 people.   She nailed it – and I’m so proud of her (pictures on my Facebook page).

The four hour dinner flew by … I am so grateful to the many friends that supported our dinner.   And, the great thing about the dinner is that we raised even more awareness about AA LEAD and raised funds to help the very deserving children from low-income Asian families.

The students know clearly the importance of education.  And, it was wonderful to have one of the nation’s leading educators, Michelle Rhee, drive the message home with a great speech.

It’s about creating a more level playing field, especially for the youth from the low-income and disadvantaged families.  Is there anything much more important?

Lastly, many, many people are going through tough economic times.  And, there’s plenty of griping and complaining.  But, if you’re in that situation, I implore you to get involved with community service and mentoring.  Give a little bit of your time — I promise you — you’ll get much more back than you give.   I came home with a beaming smile because of the magical night we had tonight — and I know we’re continuing make a strong, positive difference in the lives of many deserving and wonderful children.   Peace.

DC Scores

After the terrific NFTE “Dare to Dream” Gala on Wednesday night, last night we had another great event.  It was DC Scores’ annual fund-raising dinner, which was held again at the beautiful, Organization of American States building, one of the best venues in DC and just blocks from the White House.

The mission of DC Scores is to “inspire youth to lead healthy lifestyles, be engaged students, and become agents of change in their communities.”

Child obesity is a critical problem in the U.S.  Kids now have so many more options after school — PlayStation, X-box, surfing the internet, texting, hundreds of cable channels, i-Phone, etc.  They simply aren’t playing sports as much as the previous generations.  So, it’s important to have organizations such as DC Scores in the community to help promote healthier lifestyles.

This year’s event was run by Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld, the genius behind Latin Concepts, and Tony Hudgins, associate publisher of DC Magazine.   They did a great job in helping generate over 400 attendees for this year’s event.

The food was excellent since it came from Mauricio’s restaurants, including Guarapo, Chi-Cha, Mate, Ceviche, Yaku, etc.

WJLA’s Leon Harris did a great job of emceeing the event, but the highlight was the “poetry slams” performed by some of the students.  They brought down the house.

It’s been a great week thus far!

Hip Hop class

I had a great night last night … I was able to combine two of my favorite non-profits.

I’m on the board of directors for the Asian-American LEAD organization – a terrific non-profit which promotes the well-being of low-income Asian American youth and families and the Capitol Movement Project — an organization which strives to create opportunities for underprivileged DC area dancers to train and perform at an expert level.

My newest mentee is a wonderful young 4th-grader who’s family is from China.  I blogged about her in the past — she expertly sang a solo song at our AA LEAD annual fund-raising dinner this past Feb.  I was so impressed that she had the guts to get in front of nearly 500 people.

I’ve offered her family to pay for her singing, dancing and tutoring.  So, last night was the first session.  We went to the hip hop classes for 7 to 13 year olds offered by the Capitol Movement Project at their new beautiful dance studio at 14th and Crittenden St.

My mentee was shy at first — especially since this was her first time in a dance studio and the first time taking hip hop lessons.  But, after about 20 – 30 minutes, she embraced the teachings.  She liked it so much, she even took in the training for the Mystics junior dancers.  We were there for 2 1/2 hours!  I’m so proud of her.  I’ll be taking her there for the next few Friday evenings — I know she’ll continue to get better and better.

America is indeed the land of opportunity.  And, I’m very proud of organizations such as Asian-American LEAD and Capitol Movement Project that both do so much to help the children in the greater DC region.  If you’re interested in learning more about either organization, please email me at or go to the sites — and

VPP – Mentoring

Here’s a copy of an article that I penned recently about my mentees and I.  It’s running in the current edition of the Venture Philanthropy Partners monthly newsletter.  It explains the lessons I learned and took to heart from one of my primary mentors, Mario Morio, DC’s “Godfather of Philanthropy” and co-founder of VPP.

Singing, Dancing Lead to Mentor Relationship

Editor’s Note: Jimmy Lynn, Managing Partner at JLynn Associates and VPP donor, contributed this first-person account of his rewarding experiences mentoring a student from VPP investment partner AALEAD.

A few years ago, Mario [Morino] asked me to host a dinner for some friends who might be interested in learning more about VPP.  At that dinner, I clearly recall Mario telling us not just to write a check but also to get involved with one of the VPP nonprofit organizations.  Since Mario is one of my mentors and I listen intently to his advice, I reviewed the list and came across Asian American LEAD (AALEAD). I joined their board a couple of years ago and also serve as the co-chair of the development committee.

But, I like to do more than board work; I also like to mentor and help the students.

This past December, at the AALEAD holiday party, the students performed skits and sang holiday songs on the stage.  But there was one young student with the guts to do a solo performance in front of everybody.  After she finished, I congratulated her, and then I asked where her parents were.  She replied that they were both working.

Fast forward to our AALEAD annual party in February 2009, at the China Garden. Chancellor [Michelle] Rhee was our honored guest speaker, and she delivered a tremendous speech that resonated with everyone.  The students provided the evening’s entertainment, and, once again, this young student had the guts to sing solo…in front of 450 people!

Who is this student?  She’s a 10-year-old fifth grader named Sally. (I saw her first brave performance when she was only nine.) I told her I was impressed with her performance and asked her if she was seriously interested in singing and dancing.  She answered with a resounding “Yes!”

So, I took her and her mother to a dance performance with the Capitol Movement Project (I’m on the board of directors of this urban dance company) at the Lincoln Theatre in March.  Sally loved it, especially when I took her backstage to meet many of the performers. Jimmy Lynn and Sally prepare for Sally’s performance as a Junior Redskins Cheerleader.

In June, I had dinner with Sally, her mother, and Rosetta Lai (AALEAD’s Executive Director) .  Since Sally’s mother doesn’t speak English, Rosetta interpreted for us.  I told her that I thought Sally has a lot of talent and offered to pay for her dancing and singing lessons as well as tutoring.  The mother asked, “Why would someone want to help a family from a small town in China?”  I explained how my mentors, Mario and Ted Leonsis, taught me about the importance of “giving back” and helping others.  I told her about the many other DC young people that I mentor.  Once she heard the explanation, she expressed her gratitude and accepted the offer.

Since then, I’ve taken Sally to dance classes at the Capitol Movement Studio as well as signed her up as part of the Junior Redskins Cheerleaders. She’ll be performing in front of 90,000 fans at three Redskins games this year!

I go to dinner regularly with Sally, her mother, and her 14-year-old brother, Da-Zhi, who is also part of AALEAD and a freshman at Woodrow Wilson Senior High.  I’m starting to play a mentor role to Da-Zhi as well.

At dinner last week, Da-Zhi told his mother that he’d like to be like me when he grows up.  I took that as a huge compliment.  I told him that’s why it’s important that he studies hard so he can do well in high school and go to college since education is the great equalizer.  Sally reiterated her desire to become a doctor.

At that point, Sally’s mother looked sad and said she didn’t think they could send their children to college, primarily due to financial reasons. I immediately told her to erase that thought.  I promised I will do all I can—through a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, my personal donation, etc.—to ensure that her children go to college.  The happiness on her face was priceless.

Soon, I’m going to take Sally and Da-Zhi to the classes I teach at Georgetown University, as well as walk them around the campus so they can start to get a feel for what college is like.  I’m also going to have a couple of my friends who attend Georgetown University Medical School show Sally around their school and the hospital.

Friends who know about this mentorship tell me that Sally and Da-Zhi are lucky I’m now part of their life.  Well, it’s a two-way street since I feel fortunate that they’re part of my life.

This relationship would not have come together without VPP and it’s just one more reason why VPP is so important—we can truly make a difference in the lives of these deserving children in the Greater DC Region.

— Jimmy Lynn

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