Ongoing Hmong learning and language camp in Brooklyn Park

It’s Sunisa Lee Day at the i-Strive Hmong summer camp, and dozens of kids are trying out some Olympic sports.

The idea for the camp began 19 years ago with Dr. Sally Baas, who recognized the need for a summer camp specifically for Hmong youth while teaching at Concordia University.

From there, the Hmong culture and language program was born.

“Our goal is always to teach reading, writing and speaking in Hmong, so students can talk with their grandmothers and grandfathers,” Baas said.

This year, the program changed name and direction and moved from St. Paul to North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, which was a strategic location for the group.

“It’s here for a reason…the Brooklyn Park area (is) the second largest Hmong population in the state next to St. Paul,” said Pang Yang, who now runs the camp with her. nonprofit, Minnesota Zej Zog.

The camp teaches children from high school to preschool everything from farming to family.

“It’s what parents dreamed of. A lot of our students come from districts where there’s no Hmong language programming and that’s that missing piece,” Yang said.

This year, they also partnered with Hmong Early Childhood Coalition to welcome preschool children for the first time.

“That’s where they finally start to develop their identity, who they are. That’s the basis,” said Nee Xiong of the Hmong Early Childhood Coalition.

The effort was a true labor of love for Yang, who has already seen the impact community and culture have on these children.

“It’s worth it because you see the smiles on the faces of the students. You see them developing their Hmong language. You see them connecting with their parents,” Yang said.

This year the camp hosted 250 students, and they expect to host more in the coming years if they can secure the funding to make it all happen.

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