For seven years, the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program has been boosting young people’s self-esteem, developing strong cultural identities and creating a safe and supportive learning environment for students to enhance their academic skills. The hope is that this will help to bridge the academic achievement gap and shape the next generation of leaders  On Thursday, July 19, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., the Annual Hmong Language and Culture’s Open House at Life Center Madison on the east side of Madison will celebrate and highlight the program’s accomplishments.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to keep this program going for seven years,” Peng Her, co-director of the program, tells Madison365. “This past year’s 2017-2018 school data showed that about 67 percent of Hmong students are not proficient in math and 78 percent not proficient in reading. This program was really created by the Hmong community because they saw that their kids were not doing well in school and they wanted to find a way to support them.”

The Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program (HLCEP) a six-week intensive cultural relevant teaching summer program that prepares young Hmong elementary and middle school students from throughout Madison for college and their careers through learning about their native language and culture. 

A student reads at the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program.

“Rather than waiting for other folks to do it, they took it upon themselves to create this program. I’ve been fortunate to be the one to raise the money and find space and to keep it going. It’s really been a community effort,” Her says. “The 7th Annual Hmong Language and Culture’s Open House really gives an opportunity for those who do not know about the Hmong program to come and visit with the students to talk to them and see what they are learning.”

As a way to close the achievement gap, the program teaches Hmong students to read and write in Hmong and about their heritage and culture. Parents play a big part in this program, Her says.

“There is heavy engagement on the parents’ side of things and this helps us teach the parents how to advocate for their kids because when they go back to their home school they begin to say, ‘Why aren’t my kids getting these kinds of supports?’” Her says.

This year they had their largest cohort of students – 59.

“When we started this seven years ago, we had 37 students in our first cohort, our pilot program. Now we have 59,” Her says. “And these students come by word of mouth. We don’t advertise. Parents search us out to sign their kids up. The response from the community has been very positive in that they recognize the importance of this program. 

“Some of the kids don’t even want to go home,” he adds. “When the parents come to pick them up, they ask if they can stay longer. I think that’s a positive sign.”

Her says that students have been sharing with him the positive esteem they are getting from learning about their Hmong culture.

“We believe that when a kid has strong self-esteem, self-confidence, and positive self-pride that they will do much better in school,” he says.

The 7th Annual Hmong Language and Culture’s Open House will be a chance to take a tour of the classrooms, meet the students, participate in fun learning activities with the students, talk to teachers about the curriculum, and have a Hmong lunch with the students. 

“The students will have interactive activities to engage with the participants. It’s also a chance to meet the professors who are teaching these students the Hmong language and culture as well as how to read and write in Hmong,” Her adds. “There will be performances and students will sing to them. Afterward, there will be a lunch with the students so that participants can sit with the students and talk to them.

“It’s open to the community. The only thing I ask is to give me a heads-up so I know how much food to prepare,” Her says, smiling. “But, yes, the whole community is invited. It’s going to be a really fun time.”

 

The 7th Annual Hmong Language and Culture’s Open House on Thursday, July 18, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Life Center Madison, 4402 Femrite Dr. (across from Genesis Painting).  E-mail Peng Her at peng.her@thehmonginstitute.org to let him know you are coming.