Celebrating champions


In September, Ready 4 K’s Hmong Project hosted “Celebrating Champions” an event for 50 grandparents at the Community School of Excellence in Saint Paul. The event was an opportunity to show appreciation for the valuable role that grandparents play in raising grandchildren, while also teaching how to help better-prepare them for pre-school and kindergarten.

“The celebration is to recognize Hmong grandparents’ effort, services, and the wisdom they give to their daughters, sons and grandchildren in education,” said Jesse Kao Lee, Hmong Project Manager, Ready 4 K.

The summit drew area health and education leaders to offer advice in Hmong on school readiness, quality child care, healthy families/communities, emergency response training, and early childhood findings within the Hmong community. The speakers included Dr. Alyssa Kaying Vang, Child Psychologist with Children’s Hospital and Dr. Zha Blong Xiong, Associate Professor with the University of Minnesota.

The elders’ eyes lit up when local Hmong American comedian, Touger Xiong took the stage. His knowledge of Hmong culture and ability to put humor in the difficulties in adjusting and understanding this culture, resonated as well with the elderly as it does to his young audiences.

Much of the conversation had to do with making elders aware that the little things throughout the day can make a big impact on preparing a child for school. Grandparents typically spend a lot of time with the kids, and the speakers offered tips about how to use public television and preschool DVDs and computer websites to keep kids busy constructively. They don’t have to even speak English to ensure that kids are spending their time constructively with appropriate preschool materials.

This was all handled in a very respectful manner, so as not to imply that grandparents are doing something wrong, but to help them understand the importance of preparing kids for school in today’s classrooms where the first years are vital to success in later years.

Zha Blong Xiong, Ph.D., a professor of social work at the University of Minnesota, has been involved in evaluating and creating many education projects for the Hmong community. He said this type of elders outreach is very necessary.

“We know that grandparents care for over 30 percent of the Hmong children who are between birth and five, and many of these grandparents simply do not have access to age appropriate tools and resources to get their grandchildren ready for kindergarten,” he said. “Our analysis of the Project Early for Kindergarten (PEK) shows that Hmong children are following behind the rest of their peers in several academic measures, and that statistics disturbed a lot of people. I hope that this event will eventually generate more conversations about preparing children for schools in the community.”

Dr. Xiong hopes to have a final report on the PEK with more data available to the public in mid October.

Jesse Kao Lee said that grandparents are key influencers of quality care and early education that has proving results in the Hmong community in the last three decades and they deserve respect and appreciation for their hard work in providing daily care and support for their family.

“Every parents should value education the way grandparents did and should invest in every child so that he or she has a better success in life,” he said. “I appreciate everyone’s efforts and contributions to the 2nd annual Hmong early childhood summit, particularly volunteers, funders, co-sponsors and planning committee members.”

Ready 4 K is a non-profit advocacy organization committed to supporting parents, promoting quality, increasing access, and producing results for our youngest Minnesotans. It recently established the Hmong Project whose mission is to empower the Hmong community to ensure that all children are fully prepared to enter kindergarten.

Learn more by contacting Jesse Kao Lee at 651-644-8138 ext. 111 or e-mail jesse@ready4k.org.