"A Dream became Reality"
By Chiem-Seng Yaangh, IMSC Founder/Chairperson, 99-01
A Personal Account of the Iu Mien Student Conference
It was not long after I moved my family to Sacramento in 1996 that I became aware of the needs of the Iu-Mien community. I met two Chinese Community Advocates who kept telling me, "There are a lot of needs in the Mien community. You must do something for your community!" While I was working for the Boys & Girls of Greater Sacramento, I (informally) got to know different leaders and members in the community. The more I became aware of the needs, the more convinced that I must do something for the community. I wanted to do something that all of the Mien people can get excited about regardless of where we came from in Laos or our different faiths. It was then that the concept of the Iu-Mien Student Conference became a dream.
In July of 1998, I called a meeting with the leaders and parents in the community and introduced the concept of the Iu-Mien Student Conference (IMSC). The concept was well received, and the leaders asked me, "how can we make it happened?" I told them, "I believe it can if you work with me, together we will make it a reality". After several months of planning, 7 people stayed together as the IMSC Committee and drafted a proposal. In January of 1999, the IMSC Committee met with Dr. Jim Sweeney (Superintendent) and his Administration to request support for the conference. The partnership between the Iu-Mien community and Sacramento City Unified School District was initiated.
With financial and technical assistance from the district, the IMSC Committee brought the "dream to reality" on May 3, 1999 at California State University, Sacramento. It was truly a dream come true for the Mien community and Sacramento City Unified School District. 400 students and 110 parents participated in that first conference. The Second Annual IMSC was held on March 15, 2000 with 670 students and 210 parents participating. The Third Annual IMSC was also well attended, 600 students and 160 parents, on March 12, 2001.
The purpose of the conference is to promote high school graduation and higher education among Iu-Mien students by motivating students to stay in school, graduate and go to college. The programs are carefully designed to meet the needs of the Mien students. However, the most powerful part of the program is having Mien college students and professionals (whose who has at least a bachelor’s degree) sharing their experiences of challenges and successes in schools and in life. One student stated, "Before the conference, I thought the Mien people were nothing. But hearing from some of the Mien who has made it, I know that I can be somebody!" This student graduated from one of the SCUSD high school and has been attending a local university.
Another aspect of the conference is recognizing outstanding high school seniors with GPA of 3.50 and above. This aspect encourages the seniors to pursue higher education and to give back to the community. Recognizing high achieving seniors also motivate younger students to work hard so that they will also be recognized when they are seniors. One student said, "Chiem-Seng, I want to be one of the students going up the stage when I am a senior!"
The Iu-Mien Student Conference has been an effective tool in reaching Iu-Mien students. According to the surveys completed at the conference, over 90% of the students indicated they feel "the conference has motivated them to stay in school, graduate, and go to college". However, this conference could not have happen without the many Mien (leaders, parents, professionals, students, and others) who have taken part in the organizing and hosting the conference. I would like to thank all that has helped in one way or another in making the conference happen every year. Also, the support of the SCUSD has provided the means (financially, transportation, and staff) to bring about the conference. The Mien community is truly appreciative for all of the support! In addition, the Mien community is grateful to CSUS Outreach Services for co-sponsoring the event every year.
The needs of the Iu-Mien community are tremendous. By uniting and working together, great things will occur for present and future generations of Iu-Mien in America. I want to urge our community (that is, students, parents, leaders, and professionals) to "forget what is behind and strive forward" to build "Pathways to Success" for our younger generation.
IMSC Founding Committee:
Chiem-Seng Yaangh, Chairperson
Jimmy Phanh, Vice-Chairperson
Kristi Saechao, Vice-Chairperson
Steven T. Chao, Secretary
Giam S. Chao, Treasurer
Sunny Chinn, Volunteer Coordinator
Hach Yasumura, Advisor