The excitement of the first day of school was off the charts with the opening of Vang Pao elementary. The name itself serves as a lesson in the Valley's rich diversity.
Kids, parents and staff beamed with pride as they walked onto their brand new campus. Vang Pao elementary was bustling with well over 700 students trying to find their way around.
Parent Julie Run said, "Well this is a really nice campus. I love it and the kid loves it too."
The new school bears the name and portraits of the late Hmong leader Vang Pao. The general led Hmong troops in support of the US during the Vietnam War.
Pao's widow and one of his sons were on hand to celebrate the new campus. Chineng Vang explained, "He lectured over and over wherever he went that education is the key to success. That is sort of the school motto. That statement was taken directly from him. The importance of education he could empower his people to learn to gain more knowledge and experience to better themselves."
Each student and staff member will receive a shirt with that message.
Principal Teresa Calderon said the school helps end a difficult period for families whose kids attended Southeast elementary.
Calderon explained, "After being in a portable facility for three years and having to be bused in for three years. Every day it was 10 buses full of students coming and 10 buses full of students going. Now they can walk or their parents can drop them off."
This school is the first in the US named for a Hmong leader. Vang Pao's wide Maysong Vang said, "Today is a very special day. I'm very excited for myself and for the Hmong community too."
Students of all backgrounds are enrolled in the new school, one of the most technologically advanced in the Valley.
They all hit the washing station before settling down to eat. The first day called for an old favorite - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Calderon said Vang Pao elementary serves a very diverse population but the kids all share a common goal in furthering their education.