Imagine an opportunity to explore language, crafts, music, dance, sports, cultural activities, gardening, nutrition, and science—all while experiencing life on a university campus. This happens each summer for over 400 children and youth from 20 language groups who work and play together learning vocabulary from each other’s cultures during Hmong Culture and Language Program(HCLP), hosted at Concordia University in Saint Paul.
“The mission of HCLP is to preserve the Hmong culture through storytelling, gardening and the arts” explains Sally Baas, director of HCLP and the Southeast Asian Teacher (SEAT) Program at Concordia. “This program grew out of needs in the Hmong community and has grown to meet needs for our university students for pre-service teaching and cross-cultural experiences.”
Key Yang is a current Concordia University student in the SEAT Program who is very active with the camp, both running student registration and other administrative tasks and working as an instructor in Hmong literacy. Key says:
Working for the HCLP definitely taught me a lot of things about the role of a teacher and what they have to do in order to prepare for the arrival of students whether writing lesson plan, organizing material or keeping track of students’ record. The best thing about the program is that I can put what I have learned throughout the school year into practice. For instance, I have learned about different teaching strategies and ways of assessing student from various backgrounds but didn’t really have the chance to put it into practice and have always wanted to try it out since most of my experiences within the classroom are mainly from observation. During the program, I have the opportunity to take charge and put what I have learned into practice with guidance from experienced colleagues who have taught for many years and understand the role of teacher better.
Chao Vang, a teacher and parent who has been involved with the HCLP since it started in 2004, comments:
As a teacher, my experience at this program has been to develop activities and to bridge the old (Hmong traditions and culture) as well as the new (modern American culture) cultures together for the students who are trying to figure out their identities. The identity of a person is like the root of a tree, without the root, a tree cannot grow. As a parent, I know that my children needed the opportunity to find that root with other children like them. I have two children who have gone through the program as clan leaders and two younger ones who are current students. Concordia University has provided the place and resources for my children to have that experience and for me to be a part of something big. The program started out small, but it grew very quickly, serving students ranging from 30 students to nearly 1000 students in a span of three years. This program offered a place of belonging and increased the knowledge of self-identity as well as obtaining the competence of a very complex society. Therefore, I am happy that my children and I are a part of this program.
For more information, contact Sally Baas, firstname.lastname@example.org.