Hmong Parents Help Bridge The Culture Gap for Hmong Kids


By Jon Hornbacher | September 13, 2018

FacebookTwitterEmail

For many years, academic achievement for Hmong students in the Madison area seemed fine. But many parents were doubtful about the data.

In assessing students, the Madison School District included Hmong kids in the broader Asian category. When Hmong parents worked with the district to devise a way to look specifically at Hmong student achievement in 2012, the results were an unpleasant surprise: only three in ten kids were doing math at grade level, and just one in ten kids were reading at grade level.

“We were just really, really shocked,” says Mai Zong Vue, a community advocate. “Our parents taught us to work hard and they took a risk and made lots of sacrifices to bring us here. What’s happening to the legacy that our parents left us?”

Vue was among those parents and immediately got to work. Along with her husband Peng Her, she co-founded the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program in 2013.

The HLCEP resembles a six-week summer school, but it’s one that immerses students in Hmong language and cultural studies. A combination of paid staff and volunteers guide children ages six to 13 through a busy day that includes history, music, and tutoring for core subjects like math. The program also invites Hmong professionals to talk to the impressionable students about their careers.

“When the kids see somebody that looks like them, they say, ‘Oh, if you can do that, I can do that too,’” states Vue.

And the program is having a big impact on Hmong children like Nuj Nplhaib. “I feel like I can show my Hmong instead of holding it in.”

“If we know where we are, who we are, and which group we belong to, we’re not going to be hollow inside,” Vue reflects. “When you think about that legacy that our parents left us, it’s not going to happen unless our kids have a strong identity and can move on to be academically successful.”

Jon Hornbacher

Jon Hornbacher

Jon Hornbacher is a video director and editor based in the Madison, Wisconsin area. He has written and produced several television programs for WPT including “Remarkable Homes of Wisconsin” (2015) and “Our House: The Wisconsin Capitol” (2017).
FacebookTwitterEmail
2018-10-11T15:52:56+00:00 Tags: |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.