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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Keiko

Part II: Get to Know Local Hmong Leaders & Influencers in the Chippewa Valley

PART II - The Chippewa Valley is privileged to have a vast amount of Hmong leaders and influencers, who contribute to the community in major ways. In honor of Hmong Heritage Month, take a moment to get to know some of these individuals, and recognize their contributions, heritage, and value to our community as a whole. Because there are so many incredible Hmong leaders and influencers in the Chippewa Valley, we will be dividing this into a series. (See Part 1 HERE)

Charles Vue came to Eau Claire from Laos with his family in 1978 at the age of 13. He graduated from Memorial High School and earned degrees from UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison. Vue was the first Hmong student to graduate from UW-Eau Claire in 1989.

Because of his experiences, Vue has dedicated his career to building trust with students of color at UW-Eau Claire, particularly Southeast Asian students. He offers a huge amount of support to students and also directs the Youth Leadership Camp at UW-Eau Claire, trains faculty and staff on inclusion practices to best serve Asian and Southeast Asian students, has developed and taught Hmong languages courses at UW-Eau Claire, along with many more accomplishments.

Vue is continually forging paths for students of color, specifically Asian and Southeast Asian students, by providing resources, acceptance, guidance, and access.

Sheng Elizabeth Lor is the face of The Social X Change Project, and also serves the community as a social worker for Comprehensive Community Services (CCS) which is a psychosocial rehabilitation program designed for Eau Claire County residents coping with a mental health and/or substance use condition.

Lor's podcast focuses on entertainment, education, and impact. More recently, she has continued to highlight social justice issues, by featuring marginalized voices on her podcast to elevate their voices and allow them a space to convey their struggles and strengths.

Because of her welcoming personality, Lor has talked with different entertainers in the Chippewa Valley, social justice leaders, educators, producers, and more. Her platform paves the way for Hmong women in the community, as well as provides access and inclusion for individuals in marginalized spaces. Check out her podcast & videos HERE

Blia Vang Schwahn was born in Laos in 1975 and came to the United States at the age of 15. After facing many challenges as a Hmong woman in the school district, Vang Schwahn went to college in the 1990's for Elementary Education. She has since, dedicated her life to educating local school faculty, staff and students on Hmong history and culture.

Vang Schwahn took on responsibilities that were not in her job descriptions multiple times, to further the recognition of Hmong Americans in the Eau Claire area, and also provide guidance and access for students who faced challenges with language barriers, cultural barriers, and other issues related to insufficient tools and staff to meet the needs of students and parents.

In 2000, Vang Schwahn was The University of Wisconsin Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award Recipient, has been a key note speaker for multiple events, the Hmong Women Summit planning committee co-chair, and currently serves on the ECASD Hmong PTA as the ECASD Liason.

John Lor has contributed to the Chippewa Valley in a wide variety of ways. He is a real estate and insurance agent, and currently serves as the only Hmong American on the city council.

Lor previously managed multiple political campaigns, served as president of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, and has dedicated his time and efforts to improving the lives of marginalized individuals in the area and state.

In 2020, Lor was a recipient of a Beloved Community Award, which honors people who have, through personal and professional leadership, advanced the ideas of racial reconciliation, excellence, inclusion, and opportunity for all.

In March of 2020, Lor, along with Andrew Werthmann, authored the Anti-Deportation Resolution which condemns the deportation of Hmong and Lao ethnic minorities and the separation of families in the Chippewa Valley. Lor continues to ensure that human rights issues are in the forefront of people's mindsets, so that no one is left behind, discriminated against, or not allowed access.

Stay tuned for additional parts of this series! Coming soon....

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