Education students in the Student Wisconsin Education Association (StWEA) at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point are helping educate elementary schools about Hmong culture with help from the Community Learning through America’s Schools (CLASS) grant.
StWEA is an organization that provides extra support for education majors by helping students find professional development. As these students network and gain experience through volunteer opportunities, the transition from being a college student to working in a school is put at ease.
Each year StWEA has a chance to write grants and receive money to provide UWSP education students with extra experiences and help improve our community and our schools. This year StWEA applied for and received the $1,000 CLASS grant, which was funded though the National Education Association (NEA), a nationally recognized organization for education professionals.
The CLASS grants are earned by students to perform community service projects they design and organize. The UWSP education students found their inspiration for their service project to promote Hmong culture from the increasing enrollment of diverse students in the Stevens Point Area School District.
“I have heard nothing but positive things about the grant and am sure this will be a positive addition to the Stevens Point StWEA organization,” said Casey Bahr, StWEA president.
As the students are finding that books relating to the Hmong culture are lacking in Stevens Point schools, they hope to use the money they receive to buy Hmong childrens’ books, such as “Zaj Lus: Hmong Children’s Story Collection,” to donate to each of the schools in the Stevens Point School district.
Lisa Blume, the StWEA involvement coordinator, is in charge of leading the committee.
“Along with the donation, we plan to put on a read aloud of the stories to present the books to the schools. As for the schools that we can’t perform the read aloud, we will create and provide for them a screen cast of the book,” Blume said.
The screen cast is planned so that the students will be able to log onto the UWSP College of Professional Studies’ YouTube page, www.youtube.com/uwspcps, and hear the book read in either Hmong or English.
StWEA is teaming up with the Hmong and South Eastern Asian American Club (HaSEAAC) to educate the Stevens Point and local communities on the Hmong culture. As members of both organizations will be reading these books to the students, the HaSEAAC will also bring awareness about issues and events happening in the Hmong community as they incorporate the books into their Spring Festival, Bahr said.
President of HaSEAAC, senior Julie Lee, plans to meet with StWEA throughout the semester to plan the program.
“StWEA approached us first semester to see if we would be interested in helping them with the project if they were to get the grant. We were more than happy to help them promote our culture through reading the Hmong books,” Lee said.
HaSEAAC will help StWEA read the books to the elementary school and make the event more of an experience for the children by wearing their traditional Hmong clothing at the readings.
“Because the Hmong people have been in Stevens Point for a long time, we look forward to educating the youth on our culture so they grow up with open minds,” Lee said.
Emma St. Aubin