Posted:October 5, 2018
For Bee Moua, Career Navigator for Century College’s AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions) Grant, contributing to the greater good of community starts small.
“I believe it’s important to work with individuals one-on-one,” said Moua. “They’ll be able to impact another individual and in the long run, we’ll impact a whole community.”
Century College, like Moua, values individual success. But the College also takes a holistic approach, striving to transform communities through broad initiatives.
“I love the openness of Century College to welcome and support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Moua.
Moua is impressed by Century College’s involvement in the AANAPISI program. As part of the program, a five-year federal grant was awarded to Century College in order to improve enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of AAPI students.
Century College is one of 27 AANAPISI schools in the country, and one of two in Minnesota.
Nhia Xiong: A Role Model
As Coordinator of the AANAPISI Grant, Nhia Xiong is responsible for making sure that Century College meets AANAPISI’s many objectives.
Central to those objectives is guiding AAPI students to jobs in 11 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs, including Engineering, Solar and Renewable Energy, Law Enforcement, and Welding. These are high-paying career fields where AAPI students are underrepresented.
Xiong’s role involves more than encouraging AAPI students to go into higher education. The AANAPISI grant is an opportunity for her to help them explore career pathways and, ultimately, diversify the workforce.
“Coming to Century College and working with my population is a rewarding experience.” said Xiong. “I feel like I’m contributing to my community and making a true difference.”
A key aspect of the grant is fighting the “model minority myth,” a stereotype that presupposes all AAPI people are well-educated.
Xiong is hoping to help eliminate the myth, which often causes the educational needs of AAPI students to be overlooked. Many AAPI students are low-income, do not speak English, and the first in their families to attend college. Xiong herself was a first-generation college student.
“It was hard,” said Xiong. “But it’s great to be a role model for these students and be able to relate to what they’re going through.”
Pa Ku Lee: Seeing Students as More than Just Students
AANAPISI isn’t the only form of support that Century College offers AAPI students. Through the Multicultural Center, Asian Student Services Coordinator Pa Ku Lee gives AAPI students the guidance and resources they need to succeed in college.
Like Xiong, Lee is a first-generation college graduate. Her parents were orphans in Laos who never had the opportunity to attain an education. When they arrived in the United States, they relied on Lee, their first-born daughter in America, to educate her younger siblings and help her family navigate everyday life in an unfamiliar society.
Now, Lee helps AAPI students navigate the unfamiliar world of college. In guiding students, her background in social work is key to her approach.
“I apply all the social work skills I learned to the work I do today because I want to see the student as more than just a student,” said Lee. “I want to recognize that the student has a life outside of school, and focus on their basic needs as an individual so they can be successful as a student.”
Lee also strives to give AAPI students a voice and the means to express their culture. The Multicultural Center allows many opportunities for students to get involved through clubs, such as the Asian Student Association, and events, such as the Hmong New Year celebration.
Bee Moua: A Passion that Runs Deep
Working alongside Xiong through the AANAPISI Grant is Bee Moua. As the Career Navigator, Moua is involved in career coaching, academic advising, and tutoring. He assists AAPI students with essays, scholarships, and financial aid, while also helping prospective students apply for college.
Moua’s life has followed a similar trajectory as Xiong and Lee. As a first-generation college student, he struggled to navigate the college process by himself while also helping his parents navigate life in America. His experience inspired his desire to give back to his community.
Financially, Moua also faced difficulties. To pay for food while attending college full-time, he had to work a part-time job as well.
“With the challenges I’ve gone through, I can better help students make better decisions so they don’t make the same mistakes I did,” said Moua.
Though Moua’s passion for helping others runs deep – a trait he recognizes in his fellow staff and faculty members.
“The people at Century College are constantly looking for ways they can better support the community and students,” said Moua.