Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Chris Her-Xiong, the founder and CEO of the Hmong American Peace Academy. We talked about her passion and vision for her work in education.
Thirty-three years ago, Dr. Her-Xiong’s career in education began. At the center of her love for education has always been a desire for change. Upon experiencing the impact of education on her life, she knew how transformational it could be and wanted to provide others with that opportunity.
“I think my why has always been if you could dream it, you could achieve it. That’s always been the foundation for who I am and what I do as a refugee child who, upon coming to America, did not know how to write her name but was given the opportunity to go to school, dream big and do more for not just myself, but for my family and for my community,” says Dr. Her-Xiong.
Since the beginning of her career, she’s been a trailblazer. She was both the first Hmong teacher and principal in Milwaukee. Then after teaching with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) for 14 years, her dreams of change led to founding the Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA) where she was the principal for many years. Currently, she leads the school as CEO and continues to build strong connections with her students and staff.
“First and foremost, I’m a mom. And with being a mom, I’m a dreamer. In terms of my leadership, I feel that as a mom, I wanted to be a change agent for my children,” she says. “Not just my children, but for the Hmong children in the city of Milwaukee and in the state of Wisconsin.”
The vision behind HAPA has always been to be a place of transformation for her students. Her goal is for students to be informed and inspired so that they can become more for themselves, their families and their community. As Dr. Her-Xiong told me stories of past and present HAPA scholars, I could feel the genuine love and dedication she has for students. She holds a close bond with many of them and they are her constant inspiration.
“I believe the ideal Milwaukee is a place where our young people are educated and given the opportunity to remain here in Milwaukee so that they can be productive citizens for their families and for the community,” says Dr. Her-Xiong. “Milwaukee has so much potential, but we have not tapped into the opportunities that our young people have in changing Milwaukee from great today to better tomorrow. ”
Dr. Her-Xiong is an innovative, selfless and dedicated leader who has had a profound impact on her students, their families and the community through her work with HAPA and MPS. It is our pleasure to present her with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Dream Big Dinner in recognition of her impact and influence.