Pang Yang, Hmong teacher for 279Online received the Bush Fellowship for her dedicated work and commitment to expanding Hmong education. This two-year commitment provides a grant of up to $100,000 to people who think big within Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“Every year, the Fellows inspire us with their immense talent and even bigger ideas to make the region work better for everyone,” said Damon Shoholm, grantmaking director for the Bush Foundation.
The fellows range in occupation from executive directors to people who are starting out in their careers. Yang, who has been doing Hmong revitalization work for Osseo Area Schools for the past five years, saw a need to connect teachers and resources. She initially started the Heritage Hmong program at Park Center Senior High School, which is now a part of 279Online. This program that continues to grow and change serving more students across the district was initially filled with obstacles.
Yang encountered many obstacles around licensure, curriculum and mental health. Though she was ready to go against all odds, she was leading this important initiative by herself. She connected with Dr. Jenna Cusing-Leubner, her mentor and assistant professor in world languages education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“To be by myself was very difficult to lift myself up and serve students, so when I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jenna Cushing, who is my mentor, I said yes,” said Yang.
Yang and Cushing set out to create a nonprofit Zej Zog to continue to find ways to expand Hmong language resources to prevent the language from ever dying out. She was encouraged to apply for the Bush Fellowship, which she felt fortunate to receive.
“There is just so much at stake here. So much of what my students were sharing with me is what I struggled with as a high school student, college student and adult. Trying to find out my identity, and trying to understand the complexities. I couldn’t give up on our students, and I look for ways to be innovative,” shared Yang.
Students across Osseo Area Schools have been greatly impacted by Yang’s work. One student who learned Hmong and participated in the fifth annual End of the Year Hmong Showcase.
“I have grown into the person I am right now because of the guidance of Ms. Yang,” said Jocelyn Fang, graduating senior from 279Online.
Yang will continue to grow and develop the Zej Zog and seeks to continue building the coalition of Hmong teachers. She is grateful for the opportunity and is excited to see how much she will be able to accomplish during the next two years.