Author’s Note: I was invited to attend the Hmong Heritage Showcase by my friend Neng Thao, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in Fresno Boys and Men of Color and for several events at our school. Neng recently passed away, just weeks before he was set to graduate as valedictorian of Edison High School. I would like to thank him for everything and my thoughts and prayers are with his family. Consider donating to his funeral expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/neng-thaos-funeral
Fresno, CA has one of the largest Hmong communities in the country, with Hmongs making up nearly 5% of the city’s population. Several notable Hmongs have resided in the city, including General Vang Pao, Vang Pao Elementary’s namesake.
On Saturday, May 13 Hmong students gathered at the Southeast Fresno elementary school to celebrate the Hmong Heritage Student Showcase and to thank the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) board members who made it happen.
The Showcase brought together students from across the district who presented on what they had been doing in the Hmong Heritage Speakers classes that FUSD implemented this past school year.
Projects ranged from stories, books and posters – all focusing on Hmong culture and language.
On stage, several students celebrated their culture by performing traditional Hmong dances and songs, as well as conducting a fashion show. Later on, Field Representative Chongtoua Mouavangsou and Instruction Superintendent Misty Her spoke about the benefits of being bilingual and the importance of the Hmong Heritage programs.
The course has been taught throughout FUSD high schools during the 2016-17 school year, after hard petitioning by students throughout the city. The response by students has been extremely positive.
The importances of courses like these rely on students who seek a place to learn about their culture. Classes that students can relate to and look forward to learning from give young people a brighter look on their education. The classes have been successful thus far and have connected to students throughout Fresno.
The Hmong Heritage Speakers courses have proven that reinforcing the importance of a student’s own history and culture is crucial to empowering them to take the initiative in their own educations.