Monday, August 14, 2006

Immigrants' Success Story

Here's a note from my more here.

Hey, Everyone -

I was so impressed last night with a family who came to America 28 years ago.

It was in 1978 that St. Mary's sponsored a Hmong family (the Hmong people are a tribe from Laos.) They lived in a house that St. Mary's owned. The father, Pang, later on became the school janitor. The mother, Chia, stayed at home to raise the children. Today neither Pang nor Chia can read nor write English. They speak very broken English. When they arrived in the U.S. they had 5 children rangeing in ages from about 10 down to a baby under a year old.

The culture that they came from was so different, it was very difficult them to learn our American ways. The children learned the English language rather quickly. The oldest girl became the spokesperson for the parents. This kid would have to do such things as go to the doctor with the parents to translate for the parents. The only way they knew how to grocery-shop was to look at the pictures of the foods on the cans. They had a food disposal in the house. When it broke, they stuffed the garbage into the sink and pushed it down with a broom handle. They put their mattresses on the floor, rather than on the beds.

The children went to our St. Mary's grade school, then went on to Xavier High School. Pang, the father, by this time had started working a 2nd job at Appleton Medical Center as a night-time janitor to help pay for their tuition. I'm sure they got some financial aid. Pang is still doing that working that 2nd job. Those kids all went on to college and got many degrees (I will list them later on.) They decided to throw a party to celebrate their accomplishments.

When the invitations arrived, it read that it would be a "Graduation Celebration for the Children of Pang and Chia Xiong" and it was to be held at the Paper Valley Hotel here in Appleton, a place where many people have their wedding dinners, etc. When Sr. Joanne saw that it was at the Paper Valley she said to me, "I feel bad that they're having their party at the Paper Valley." I asked her why and she said because they can't afford that. I told her, "Joanne, with all those advanced degrees that those kids have they probably all have very good jobs and they CAN afford it. I'm happy for them that they can now do what we, native-born Americans, can do."

The party started at 3:00 and ended at midnight. Sr. Joanne, Germaine, and I went together. There were about 300 people there when we arrived. We got there a little late because we had to get the 4:30 Mass at St. Mary's started, then we left. We knew that Hmong parties go on and on, but we were sorry we weren't there for the first 3 speakers.

The first two were Hmong people, both from Minneapolis. The other was an African-American woman who was the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Penn State Dickinson School of Law from 1994 to 2002. They showed a video with pictures from the time when they were little children. They honored their parents by handing the mother a diploma and the father a cap and gown. When he took it from them, he put it to his face and cried.

I could go on and on about the party, but I will just list for y'all the degrees they have received:

Anne Vang-Lo
B.S. - Education, UW Oshkosh
Bon Xiong
B.S. - Psychology, Brandeis University
M.S. - Education, UW-LaCrosse
A.S. - Fox Valley Technical
Ge Xiong-Moua
B.A. - Anthropology/Biology, Mount Holyoke College
M.A. - Education, Concordia University
ThaoMee Xiong
B.A. - Community and Culture, Mount Holyoke College
M.P.A., Columbia University
J.D., University of Pennsylvania
Pla Xoua Xiong-Hang
B.A. - Chemistry, Yale University
M.P.H., University of Michigan
M.D. Candidate, 2009, Wayne State University
Mary Xiong-Thao
B.A. - American Studies, Carleton College
M.B.A., UW-Parkside
Kathy Xiong
B.A. - Psychology, Amherst College
M.A. - Education, New York University

The second one listed above, Bon Xiong, is the only boy in the family. All the rest are girls. And only two of the girls are not married yet - ThaoMee and Kathy. All the married ones have children -- and lots of children. Anne, the oldest one, has 7 kids. Pla, the one who is in Medical School, has a 14 month old little girl and is expecting another baby in November.

This is, indeed, a great American success story.



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