Fresno is a highly diverse city, including being one of the biggest homes for the Hmong community in the entire United States. With Hmong not recognized as a country and assorted to different territories of their Southeast Asian neighbors, their sacred culture and belonging is in essential need to be reclaimed with multilayered support - one method is bilingual immersion programs (learning both English and Hmong) throughout K-12 educational districts in Fresno County.
Elementary schools are incorporating these programs to extend later into high schools to build bridges of multiculturalism that is in wishing for a Hmong academic language, one that pushes further education beyond the classroom. Many individuals in the Hmong community learn their native tongue vocally, making the necessity to learn their culture and a more extensive vocabulary as a collective effort. Typically, many Southeast Asian ethnic groups are commonly ignored and can only commit to a few developing resources that are built up from their own neighborhoods and families. To see this on a district level for teachers and students working together in even building a curriculum that can be replicated in other schools and bilingual programs is seeing history made alive.
The popularity of the immersion programs throughout California has increased and been a pattern in the Central Valley for the past decade. This was an educational opportunity that I admire and yearned to have for my younger years as I had difficulties learning both Spanish and English under a multiethnic household. Despite having Spanish classes in high school, relearning my home language has been an treacherous effort that would be more efficient in my earlier years of development.
So far, many students coming out of these programs in Fresno have internal confidence in themselves, having pride to see where they come from be enacted in an unique way. This journey uplifts a community that has to find a home away from a zone of trauma and uncertainty, and the tenacity that children in these programs endure to preserve stories and words represent resilience and honor. The development for these programs are only getting stronger, and the individualization and embracing of the Hmong culture is inspirational.