by Gaoiaong Vang and Tiffany Lee • The first Hmong American to serve on the Saint Paul School Board of Education, Kazoua Kong Thao has made an impact on how we learn today.
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Kazoua is the chair of the Saint Paul School Board of Education; she is serving her second term. She is the third Hmong in the country to serve on a board of education. Kazoua makes decisions on what is best for the Saint Paul Public Schools. As chair, she also schedules meetings and agendas and represents the Saint Paul Board of Education when addressing the City Council.
Kazoua came to America at a very young age. Being the oldest of ten, she couldn’t rely on anyone; instead, others relied on her. She attended Jackson Elementary in what we call Frogtown and because she didn’t have anyone to look up to, she depended on herself. Because schools did not offer interpreters at the time, she was often pulled out of class to interpret for the Hmong families who had trouble understanding English. She started interpreting for the Hmong families when she was in the third grade. Using that experience, she became the leader she is today.
Kazoua has always been passionate about helping young Hmong women find themselves through cultural identity. She had trouble finding her cultural strength, but the words of her father—“It doesn’t matter what other people think. As long as you know who you are, then everything will fall into place”—helped give her the strength to step up and do things she thought she couldn’t do.
With her being a part of the school board and having a family, she tries her best to balance time for both of them. When she has to run errands for work, she incorporates her family into her job. She makes sure her kids get what is best for them and makes sure she is able to do what is right for herself and her family. Overall, she is able to balance out her job and family.
She encourages young people to challenge themselves, to take a stand and be heard. She also challenges young Hmong kids to take Advanced Placement classes and other college-prep classes to make it far in education. Today we are informed about good classes we can take, so we should take advantage of them. Back when Kazoua was in school, she did well and could have taken those challenging classes, but she was not told about them.
As chair of the school board, Kazoua Kong Thao is an inspirational Hmong woman, a Hmong leader, and she actively takes a stand and expresses her feelings and viewpoints.