Saint Paul Hmong Family Excels Together
Both traveled from Thai refugee camps to the United States with widowed mothers who were illiterate and too overwhelmed by the transition to get involved in their education.
Moua and Thao don't have fond memories of their schooling. She arrived in Chicago at age 8. He came to Minnesota at 11.
Neither spoke a word of English.
Neither participated in sports or other school activities. Moua's earliest memory of school involves enlisting a Hmong student who spoke some English to ask the teacher for permission so she could go to the bathroom.
Their kids have been a different story. In 2013, when their elder children were all at Johnson, all four ranked first or second in their classes.
Before heading to Carleton College in Northfield as a pre-med student that year, Justin was the senior class president, the National Honor Society vice president and the soccer and tennis team captain. He played the drums in honors band, mentored younger students in the school's Link Crew program and volunteered at Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury.
Jepheny, who will follow Justin to Carleton this fall, was involved in student council, the tennis team, the choir, National Honor Society and Link Crew. She is also a member of a Hmong dance group and the lead singer at Hmong Hope Community Church's worship band, where she started out as a seventh-grader so shy the congregation could barely hear her at the microphone.
Sister Josalyza and brother Jethro are quickly racking up similar lists of accomplishments at Johnson, where roughly half of the students are Hmong. Sister Josapheena will be a freshman at Johnson next year; brother Jerusalem and sister Jewellynna are at Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet.