Tuesday, December 22, 2009

4th Annual Lao Education Conference a success

A big thanks to everyone who organized the 4th Annual Lao Education Conference in Sacramento, California on Friday, December 11th. The mission of ALEC is "Inspiring and empowering Lao American students to pursue higher education for the betterment of self, family, and community."

The event was a fine and positive conference this year with some amazing talent from across the country and the state of California.

Speakers included my colleagues Catzie Vilayphonh of Yellow Rage, Ova Saopeng and Lidet Viravong of Refugee Nation, fashion designer Nary Manivong, Phoumy Sayavong of the Center for Lao Studies and Noi Sourichanh (Sirch) Chanthyasack, MBACEO of LANA. So many other exceptional professionals and role models in the Lao community also played a big role in this event and it's clear the Sacramento community cares about the future of its youth.

The students were very engaged in a series of interactive activities, panels and workshops to discuss the Lao American movement, academics, jobs and getting to college and their heritage.

Although there are over 200,000 Lao in the US, there are only a few other student conferences organized for Lao youth anywhere else in the country and it is often difficult for these activities to acquire sufficient resources to reach out to all of the local children.

As of 2000, fewer than 7% of the Lao community had graduated from college and less than 1% had advanced degrees. Hopefully, this statistic has changed and will be reflected in the Census 2010. But in any circumstance, families and community members need to continue to work together to ensure the best possible opportunities for their children and to take positive steps in their education.

The conference was organized by the Lao American Advancement Organization. By the year 2013, the vision of LAAO is to be an advancing organization and will have in place the board, staff, facilities, and financial resources necessary to make it one of the most effective Lao American community development agency in the United States of America. I look forward to seeing what their fifth conference looks like.

Again, I extend my deep thanks to my hosts for their hospitality and their generosity and giving me the opportunity to speak with such wonderful students and wish them all great success in the future!

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