“The Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program really helps Hmong students learn about who they are and where they are from and to also know about their language and their culture,” Peng Her, CEO of the Hmong Institute, tells Madison365. “It’s called ‘culturally linguistic relevant teaching.’ The idea is that if a child is grounded in their home language, they know who they are … they have positive self-esteem, they have confidence and self-pride because they know their culture. And they will do better at school.”

On Wednesday, July 21, 10 a.m.-noon, Her is inviting the greater Madison community to come meet and have lunch with the students, learn about some of the activities they have been doing in the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program at the Annual Hmong Language and Culture’s Open House at Life Center Madison on the east side.

Peng Her with wife, Mai Zong Vue

“The best part is really talking to the students and seeing how this program has impacted them as a student and a person. It’s important to show these kids that they have lots of Hmong peers out there just like them and they have a whole group of friends that they can keep in contact with,” Her says. “This event is a great chance to get to know the students, staff and volunteers.”

Her and his wife, Mai Zong Vue, co-founded the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program in 2013. For nine 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  

Her remembers when he and his wife first came to America and the peer pressure that they once faced to disregard old Hmong customs and to assimilate to American customs.

“I do believe that this peer pressure is less today. When we first came, there was this big emphasis to assimilate, to learn English and to make American friends, to do well in school and to almost kind of forget your culture because people didn’t recognize the positive side of that back then,” Her remembers. “Now, in 2021, parents are beginning to realize not knowing who you are really impacts and influences us and causes you to not doing as well as school.

“Secondly, the Hmong parents are seeing that the Hmong language is being lost and the Hmong culture is being lost because we get so Westernized that we lose some of our identity,” he adds. 

The Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program (HLCEP) is 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. 

“This year, due to COVID, we had to reduce the size of our class. In the past, we’ve had up to 64 students. This year we’ve cut it down to 30 – each class has 10 students,” Her says.

Students from the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program
(Photo supplied)

“Parents have been seeing a lack of knowledge of Hmong heritage and culture of the younger generation and they really want them to have that so that they can be more self-confident and have more self-esteem and self-pride in how they are,” Her says.

The 9th Annual Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program’s Open House will be a chance to take a tour of the different 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. 

“Folks are encouraged to stay for lunch because sometimes sitting with a student at their lunch table is a much more organic conversation than in a classroom setting where you have to raise your hand and a teacher calls on you with questions for the students,” Her says. “Students are a little nervous trying to answer in front of a big crew. When you’re sitting at a table and you get a chance to talk to them and get to know them better, it’s always more organic and more rewarding.” 

 

The 9th Annual Hmong Language and Culture’s Open House on Wednesday, July 21, 10 a.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.