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Zang's experience as an immigrant student draws her to mentor with GGAL

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

Zang Her is a senior at Saint Catherine’s University studying Public Health with a concentration on Community Health Work (CHW) and Public Policy and minoring in Psychology. Post-graduation, Zang plans to apply for a Youth in Development Peace Corp position in Thailand to help youth in Thailand develop leadership, English, and health skills.


A Reflection By Zang Her GGAL Mentor

Zang Her, GGAL Mentor

It was a great and fun experience interning for WISE. I'm drawn to WISE because their mission to empower immigrant women and girls to succeed. Just like the Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL) students, I was once an immigrant so I know how difficult it can be to start life all over again in a new country where you are not familiar with anything and don’t understand the language. WISE’s mission allows me to empower immigrant women and girls to acquire more health knowledge so they can be more aware of the importance of their health. Being a part of WISE and working with the GGAL program to help immigrant women and girls on their way to success makes me very happy.

When I first arrived in the US, I did not participate in any activities or groups like GGAL. I am happy that these young women are able to participate in a program like this one. I was put into English as a Second Language (ESL) classes which is very different from GGAL. Something I found interesting about the GGAL classrooms is that the students can speak their native language. The reason I find this interesting is because most of the classes I was in when I first arrived, especially my ESL class, did not let us speak our native language. If I spoke Hmong with another classmate, for example, asking a question about the class assignment, the teacher would immediately shut me down and tell me to speak English only. I understand that my ESL teacher was trying to make sure that we speak English so that we can learn the language faster and change our focus on our native language to English. However, what the teacher did not know is that by doing this, she is shutting us down from talking even more. How can she expect us to speak in the classroom when we don't know any English? When I didn’t understand English, and the teacher tells me not to speak in Hmong, this is the same as telling me not to speak at all. Therefore, I find it interesting, and I'm glad, that the young women in GGAL are not experiencing this same situation as I did in the GGAL classroom. Overall, I am glad to be able to see the students being able to ask questions to their friends in their native language when they don’t understand something or want to clarify something.

Zang (left) tutoring a GGAL student

Through my time at WISE, although my role is to teach the GGAL participants about health-related topics, I'm also learning from them. I was able to see and learn the differences between learning from my studies compared to teaching real students about health. At school, I have done many presentations about health-related issues by educating my classmates, so I thought it would be easy teaching the GGAL students. To my surprise, I found it to be difficult because the girls were not familiar with many of the public health terms. Giving presentations at school, my audience consisted of public health and college students, so they easily understood what I was saying. After giving my first presentation in GGAL, it made me realize that I needed to adjust my words and teaching style to meet the students’ standards.

Zang (second from right) accompanies GGAL at Girls Rock the Capitol


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