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Mai T. Yang



Mai emigrated from Ban Vinai Refugee Camp with her parents, siblings, uncles and grandparents. Her family had a total of 6 children at the time of arrival. Currently they are a family of 11 with 3 siblings born in the United States. Mai is the fifth child to attend college and was the 4th to graduate, the second from the University of Minnesota. She majored in Child Psychology and minored in Public Health.




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My name is Mai Tong Yang and I was born in Ban Vinai, Thailand. Ban Vinai was a refugee camp that housed a large number of Hmong people after the Vietnam War. I was born in 1992 and immigrated to the US in 1993 with my family.
Kuv txiv yog Xai Phia Yaj thiab kuv niam yog Yee Moua. My parents are my biggest supporters in almost everything that I do, throughout my whole life, especially with my education. For as long as I can remember, my father has always loved school and learning. My mother on the other hand, has had very little opportunity to go to school and to receive an education.
Throughout my schooling, my father always mentioned the same thing at every parent teacher conference. He would say, “You should push her more. Challenge her.” These words, although they were said to someone else, I didn’t forget them because I felt that it was directed to me. It’s possible that he was saying it for himself as well, for the family, that we should internalize these words in order to keep pushing the envelope and to try harder in life so that we can succeed.
In middle school, I received one of the most invaluable gifts from my parents; a bracelet that my father had actually made before we came to the US. My parents told me to “muaj khaws zoo zoo os” so I never wore it before high school because I put it away to keep it safe. Towards the end of my high school career, when I felt a little more in touch with who I was and a little more confident about where I was headed, I put it on and in a sense, it’s become a part of me ever since. I think it’s something that really represents me and my background, being a Hmong woman. Growing up, you sometimes forget yourself and when that happens, I look to this gift from the most loving and supportive people in my life because this bracelet embodies my history and it brings me back to reality, it reminds me of who I am and of what my parents went through. It reminds me of the fact that they left so much behind so that we could move forward…