Grant program aims to raise number of bilingual students

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When Charles Vue, UW-Eau Claire’s Hmong and Southeast Asian program coordinator, approached senior Elic You last year, he let You know his grades were in line for the Wisconsin Refugee Children School Impact Project.

Now You, one of five Eau Claire students receiving the teacher-training grant, says he is on track to graduate in December and will be teaching soon.

“The money has helped me to stay on task and focus on school instead of worrying about where money is going to come from,” You said.

The program You is involved in also is referred to as Refugee Teacher Training and is one of a pair of federal career-ladder grants assisting students studying education at Eau Claire.

“The goal is to increase the number of refugee teachers in the public school setting,” Vue said. The other program is called Project Teach and involves six students at the university.

“The primary benefactors will be the refugee children who will see they have a role model to look up to,” Vue said. “A bilingual instructor or multicultural instructor is also more understanding of a refugee child’s needs.”

Vue said he thinks others will benefit beside the refugee children and teachers.

“With a Hmong teacher in a public school setting, that individual carries with him or her his or her own background,” Vue said. “You can’t experience that kind of knowledge from a non-refugee or non-bilingual instructor.”

The programs are dealing with Wisconsin’s “needs for increased English proficiency among Southeast Asian students and a greater number of Southeast Asian teachers, administrators, counselors and other educators in public and private schools,” according to a press release.

You said teaching has been one of three possible majors since he came to school – the others being business and psychology. Now that he’s decided on teaching, he plans to work with younger children.

“I’d rather be with kids who want to be there,” he said.

You said he spent one-and-a-half months block teaching second-graders at Mondovi Elementary during the fall semester and had a great time.

“It was quite the experience.”