“What Grade are you in?” I asked Ali Al Saleh, one of our students from Bancroft Elementary School, as we walked together to the Metro Station. He responded back matter-of-factly, “I am in first grade doing second graders’ stuff.” This was his humble way of telling me that he was smart enough to skip the first grade.
Ali is not only smart, but artistic as well. His artwork was chosen to be among 400 winner entries from elementary school students all across the nation. We were both excited to go to the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill for the unveiling of the art exhibit promoting health care, entitled, “America’s Future starts with Healthy Children.” Although Ali may not directly be aware of it, his artwork was his contribution in supporting the S-CHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) bill. Like a small seed planted, it is sometimes unimaginable what potential it may have in the future. This Bill will guarantee health coverage for 10 million children across the United States.
AALEAD Elementary After-School Program has had an active role in this advocacy. The events brochure captured the excitement: “Students from grades K through 6, in Asian American LEAD’s Bancroft and Thomson Elementary School after-school program, in Washington, D.C. quickly flooded the campaign with over forty pieces of artwork. Works ranged from the importance of respecting other people, to breathing good air, eating healthy foods, making friends and building wholesome communities.” This project is a “seed” of opportunity for our students to participate in legislature that may affect the majority among them, being as they are mostly from
low-income immigrant families.
Additionally, Ali had the privilege of meeting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Jay Rockefeller. He also had the opportunity to explain his artwork to the senior staff of Representative of Chris Van Hollen of Maryland's 8th District. This Ali did with both great confidence and the simplicity of a child. It was so encouraging to see this “seed project” coming to life as one young boy’s creativity contributes to the greater purpose
of affecting many children here in the United States.
As I took Ali back home, I asked him if he enjoyed the day and meeting the senators. He joyfully answered back that he definitely enjoyed his experience, but had to ask me one important last question: “What is a senator?”
I guess our journey with Ali is not yet over; the seeds of greatness in the life of this young boy still needs to be nurtured by the people around him. And like a seed awaiting germination, a nurturing environment can make all the difference. It is indeed a privilege that AALEAD can play a vital role in investing in the life of this promising student.