Ah Vang-Lo has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in elementary education, but she leaves the classroom teaching to her twin sister. Ah works at the National Youth Leadership Council managing training programs to inspire youth to become agents of change today, not waiting for tomorrow. As a first generation American born Hmong woman, Ah has found special connection with Asian and Hmong young people. Her skills in connecting with communities inspired a previous supervisor to encourage his staff to “find their inner Ah” after she increased participation in a tutoring program.
My undergraduate years, 2000-2004. I've always had a knack for working with the community to teaching them and to learn from; particularly with young people in urban settings because that's where I grew up. I like to think that I've been intentional in places that I work in but it may as well be that my path led me to some places that taught me to grow in ways that I needed to.
Like many first generation American born Hmong daughters, growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood just north of Minneapolis prompted me to be quite confused with my cultural identity. I didn't quite grasp the strength of my Hmong roots until I came to the University of MN-TC. At the start of my undergraduate career, and with tremendous help of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) and the Hmong Minnesota Student Association (HMSA), I became more self-aware and extremely proud of the skin that I'm in.
Dr. Joanne Buggey, my undergraduate Elementary Education faculty advisor. She saw my potential and personally reached out to support my growth within the program.
I also really appreciated my Democracy in Education course as well. This class really forced me out of my comfort zone and it asked me to look critically at how the education system is politicized. I remember thinking about how wonderful my professor (I wish I remember his name!) is and how I just wanted to write a book capturing all his quotes.
The sense of community built within the cohort program; both undergrad and in the grad program. I was surrounded with mostly like-minded individual looking to make a positive impact on our young people.
It's the community of our young people. The innocent wonders, the honesty, and determination of our young people whose leadership are ghastly under utilized; especially within the classroom walls. We, adults, often believe that we have all the knowledge to pass on. But if we can instead guide our young people's learning rather than dictate, provide them opportunities to lead their learning, and let them connect their learning to the actual real world, imagine how much further their growth can be! We need the leadership of our young people today, not tomorrow.
I surround myself with smarter people in similar fields. And having access to social media helps flag me to current issues and trends as well.
Genuine and quick to laugh. I claim that I have a sensitive sense of humor, as most things make me laugh. Laughing is fun! And it brings people together.
There are so many good ones and categories to choose from. Instead, I'll recommend one of my favorite children's book author and illustrator, Eric Carle. So much of his books introduces concepts, art, and knowledge to our young people.
The impact that I am making on and with young people. When I'm working with a team with such passion behind the same vision and goals, it makes the work and effort behind it easier and fun!
In 5th grade, I asked my teacher, Mr. Zeff, if I would make a good teacher. He is one of my favorite teachers to this day. He was fun, he made learning fun, and he saw me for who I really was and not just a quiet Asian girl. So I wanted be like him. His response to me was an immediate and honest, "Of course you would!" Though I'm not a self-contained traditional classroom teacher, I do believe I am an educator. Thank you, Mr. Zeff.
I have a twin sister, Cha Yang, who is a 3rd grade classroom teacher in the White Bear Lake School District and is also an alumni of the U of M-TC. She keeps me current about the classroom teacher perspective and I do the same in regards to leadership.
Be present with my two little, growing boys and with my husband. True to my passion in watching people's leadership grow and develop, I have the ultimate responsibility in making sure my two boys grow up to be the best versions of themselves, respectively.
The power of networking. Build your community of folks who is going to help you grow. For first generation, low-income, person of color, college students, like me, we have to build that network from the ground up. Build those relationships and keep them. As the late Senator Paul Wellstone once said, "We all do better when we all do better."