By WCCO-TV's Beret Leone
ST. PAUL, Minn. –- Just two minutes away from St. Paul's Hmong Village, a new middle school is integrating the culture into its everyday learning. Hmong Language and Culture Middle School welcomed dozens of students in the 2022-2023 school year—and administrators hope its just the beginning.
"This is something our families have been wanting for years," Hmong Language and Culture Middle School Principal Veu Thor said. "We want to support the community by having someday Pre-K to 12 schools that aligns with Hmong language and culture."
As Thor walks the halls; he's filled with pride. From the garden to the classroom, Hmong culture, language and pride is felt in every space.
"Culturally relevant instruction is very important for our families to see," he said. "When our children come to school, they see themselves as authors or writers or mathematics or scientists. And language experts!"
Hmong Language and Culture Middle School is part of the St. Paul Public Schools District, providing another option for families. This year, 52 sixth grade students have taken advantage of the opportunity.
"It's really opening doors for us to see how language and cultural programs can be established in a public school system such as St. Paul Public Schools," SPPS Assistant Superintendent Yeu Vang said.
Not only do students learn the basics of math, science and literacy, but also Hmong language classes. But students don't need to speak Hmong before attending.
"It's not a global language, but it's actually a local language," Vang said. "And so, that speaks to the community connections and opportunities and building a stronger school, and city if you will."
Hmong immersion isn't anything new in the district, with Pre-K through 5 students at the Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet School, but SPPS leaders hope the new school opens doors to other opportunities, like a high school.
Vang and Thor say it's powerful to think back on their own education.
"When I went to school it would have bene great to see teachers that look like me. And a principal that looked like me," Thor said.
"I did not have this option growing up, but I did have this dream, vision, as a little girl, to come to school and have teachers that look like me," Vang added.
Once a dream, now a reality for Hmong SPPS students.
"That's our goal, is to say this is your school, this is your community, and we are here for you," Thor said. "This is all about our children."
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