As EdAllies’ Program Associate, Bao provides policy, communications, research, organizing, and advocacy support to advance the organization’s work for Minnesota students, focusing primarily on efforts related to improving educator effectiveness and empowering families. Committed to serving her community, education has been a common thread throughout Bao’s career. She taught college readiness and access to immigrant/refugee, low-income, and underrepresented youth and families through her roles as a three-term AmeriCorps member with College Possible, Minnesota Alliance with Youth, and Minnesota Literacy Council. In addition, Bao launched and now operates the Women Circle of Peace, a monthly peacemaking circle dedicated to uplifting the voices of Hmong and other women of color through story-telling and community-building. Bao holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Concordia College in Moorhead and certifications in Peacemaking Circle and Restorative Justice Facilitation. She enjoys being social through Latin and afro-beat dancing, and gathering with friends over a home-cooked meal.
What do you hope to see change in education during your lifetime?
Quite simply, I hope to see children enjoy learning. To achieve this, I believe children must learn in their unique learning style and through a lens that is sensitive and relevant to who they are. It was not until I studied abroad in India during college that I really discovered my learning style: kinesthetic. This was a turning point for me: the moment I really started to love learning. Previously, I memorized information for tests—information that was not fun and therefore, did not stay with me long-term. This information also did not relate to my background as a second-generation Hmong woman. I was learning a lot of the history of white people and none about how my Hmong relatives helped the Americans fight the Vietnam War or about the true voices and struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Because I could not relate to what I was learning, I did not care and it did not make much sense to me. In my personal experience, when I learned in a way that made sense to my brain and studied material that was culturally relevant, I could grasp onto information easier and longer. I hope that all children will have the opportunity to identify their learning style and access an education that relates to their identity.
Why is courage important to you?
It can be intimidating to experience something new and unfamiliar. However, the most valued lesson I learned through my education is that the only way to grow is to challenge yourself. This takes courage, but often only a simple step. For example, I would never have understood the isolation of being a woman of color in a small town if I hadn’t made the conscious choice to attend college far from home. Or, I wouldn’t have learned why school was more difficult for me if I didn’t study abroad in an experiential learning program that finally accommodated my learning style. These experiences were uncomfortable, but gave me the wisdom and confidence to take the simple step of challenging myself again by entering the field of education advocacy. Ultimately, it is my own courage that has led me to this work, and it will take collective courage—sometimes through simple steps, sometimes through more complex ones—to ensure our education systems finally benefits all students equitably.