Fresno Unified working to increase bilingual education for its students

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Learning the ABC's are about to look and sound very different in Fresno Unified.

Beginning this fall the district will roll out a Hmong language immersion program at Vang Pao Elementary School.

"Obviously getting into the workforce, if you speak two languages and fluent in two cultures you have so much a better opportunity, particularly in the Valley. We want to provide our students with that opportunity," said FUSD Superintendent Bob Nelson.

The move is part of Fresno Unified's goal to expand dual language immersion across the district.

Bilingual curriculum in Spanish is already being offered at the elementary, middle and high school levels but Vang Pao will be the first to offer teachings in Hmong.

"Even at that young age speaking a second language. If it's not promoted you end up speaking majority of what your friends who are speaking English," said Community Activist Blong Xiong.

According to community activist Blong Xiong, this is a great way for young kids to get immersed in the language and to still be able to communicate with their grandparents and keep those cultural foundations alive.

"When our elders hear or don't hear them speaking, then they believe there's not that connection. Having this and making sure we keep that language going, it connects the family in a different way," said Xiong.

Parents will have the option to enroll their children in the program. At Vang Pao, students will be taught by a teacher speaking English for half the day and Hmong the other half.

"Here at Vang Pao, 50 percent will be in English and 50 percent will be in Hmong as they move thru the system they'll increasingly develop language skills in both of those areas," said Nelson.

The district's plan is to expand the program through 12th grade and allow students the chance to earn the seal of biliteracy upon graduation.
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