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Pilot PSS Program for Hmong Families Launched

By Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

This past fall, a team from the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development got a grant to adapt a curriculum for Hmong families under the center’s Partnering for School Success (PSS) program. The new project, Hmong Families and Schools Partnering for Students’ Success, is being implemented in partnership with Hope Community Academy in St. Paul and Prairie Seeds Academy in Brooklyn Park. The project focuses on one of the major factors related to academic achievement for students: family support and involvement at school.

A Family Resiliency program team with the Department of Education identified interested schools, and formed a steering committee including key researchers, professors, and community experts in education and Hmong culture. A subcommittee will help to determine cultural adaptations and translation needs for the curriculum, which is based on another PSS component for Latino parents, a curriculum titled Education: Our Best Legacy.

Program facilitators of Education: Our Best Legacy.

That curriculum was first implemented in Spanish as part of the Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) 5-year grant. Results from the PSS program for Latino parents showed that parents and children develop more positive communication skills and trust as parents develop self-efficacy in monitoring their children’s school performance.

Education: Our Best Legacy was developed and piloted in Spanish, and there was a request to adapt and translate the curriculum for Hmong families as well. It is important to do such adaptions in partnership with schools and education experts who are aware of cultures and can contribute based on the Partnering for School Success model. That model seeks to increase parents’ and caregivers’ ability to navigate the school system and help them build confidence in their capacity to communicate with their children’s school in order to help ensure their academic success.

Based on focus group results with Hmong families, success for them means that children must be the “ideal student.” An ideal student gets good grades; has good reading and writing abilities; is obtaining skills for a good job; has received a high school diploma; and is accepted to and graduates from college. Similar to other new immigrant parents, Hmong parents reported the following challenges to supporting their children’s success in school: an absence of Hmong-speaking school staff to assist them with school-related issues, and a lack of communication with teachers because of language and cultural barriers.

The project team includes Mary Jo Katras, program director in family resiliency; Kathleen Olson, PSS program director; and myself as principal investigator. Contact me at with any questions.

This project is funded by a University of Minnesota Extension Issue Area grant. Extension created issue area grants to support cross-disciplinary work, increase external visibility, and demonstrate Extension's comparative advantage in addressing complex issues, such as promoting youth educational success and food systems. Read more about Family Development’s issue area grant-funded projects here: Family Development Lands Three Issue Area Grants.

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