Building a Strong Foundation for the Future - Little Tokyo Service Center

Building a Strong Foundation for the Future

2022 youth leader interns


Building a Strong Foundation for the Future

By LEAP Summer Intern, Victor Xie*


LTSC is committed to giving youth in the community opportunities to gain valuable leadership skills and a chance to give back to their vibrant community. Mi CASA’s Youth Leaders Internship is a 10-month program that allows teens to develop leadership skills, mentor youth and engage in public service. This year, three new interns joined the cohort to lead the after school program: Caleb, Yousuf, and Aleena.

The three interns strive to make a difference in their community, especially within the younger generation.

“It’s the most crucial part of their life; sometimes they don’t have certain figures or [role models], so I guess I want to fill even a little bit of that,” says Caleb. “I hope I have a positive impact on the kids, even if it’s just a little.”

“I hope to see kids growing up without any violence,” explains Aleena. “Around my neighborhood there’s gangs, and I hope kids don’t grow up towards that. I hope that I can guide them towards a better and clearer goal.

For Yousuf, a junior in high school, being a Youth Leader prepares him for the future. “I hope I leave with more experience working and growing as a person,” says Yousuf. “It’s something productive, something to get out of the house.”

Growth is also something Aleena has experienced while working as a Youth Leader. “Before this, I had a lot of social anxiety and I didn’t like to talk a lot, but hopefully after this I’ll be able to make more opportunities to talk to other people. This program has really helped me build team relationships that’ll help me in school,” says Aleena.

Mi CASA is a free after school program created for youth in low-income neighborhoods in and around Little Tokyo. This program directly aids the youth from these communities in academic achievement and social engagement, through homework support and fun activities. Youth Leaders are catalysts to this growth. “I hope to help kids learn, try new things, interact with people that are older than them, and in general to have fun and enjoy life,” says Caleb.

Mi CASA’s summer program runs in the newly opened Terasaki Budokan, which continues to be a valuable resource for the Little Tokyo community and beyond. “Budokan is the best part [of Little Tokyo], having a community center is good for the community,” says Yousuf. “People can put on events there, and it brings people together.”



*LTSC Development and Communications team was fortunate to host a LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics) summer intern, Victor Xie, a third year student at UCLA.  In addition to interviewing the youth leaders and writing this article, Victor performed research into our community’s demographics, analyzed areas of our website, and provided fresh insight into the issues facing our AAPI community.

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