Social justice and promoting cultural diversity are tops on her list
Nineteen-year-old sophomore LyLy Vang-Yang takes a wholehearted approach to her education at Inver Hills Community College. Inspired by a passion for advocacy, LyLy (pronounced Lily) is pursuing an Associate in Arts degree with an emphasis in Political Science. She’s also exceptionally active in student organizations, serving as secretary in the Student Senate and membership chair in the Cultural Center.
“I’m the first generation in my family to go to college,” said LyLy, who is proud of her Hmong heritage. “Going to Inver Hills is an awesome privilege. The campus encompasses all that I want from a college. The people are just so beautiful. Once you’re here, you never want to leave.”
Thousands of Hmong people in Laos were recruited by the CIA to wage a secret war against Pathet Lao guerrillas and North Vietnamese military forces during the Vietnam War-era. After the war, many Hmong refugees resettled in the United States. Today, more than 260,000 Hmong live in the U.S. with the world’s largest Hmong urban community (66,000) residing in the Twin Cities.
LyLy appreciates the diversity she has found at Inver Hills. She is excited that her journey as a college student offers her the chance to meet and work with people from such varied cultures and backgrounds.
“Everyone is multicultural—and it’s important to recognize the intersectionality of people,” she said. “As a Hmong woman, I see the world a certain way, but I know I need to hear diverse voices and see life from different perspectives. We need to learn from each other. I want to listen and understand.”
The Cultural Center is a focal point of LyLy’s engagement on campus. She views the center as a launching pad for inclusivity.
“The Cultural Center is the heart of Inver Hills,” LyLy said. “Visiting the center is one of the best ways to become involved at the college. We welcome everyone and often talk about very difficult subjects. The Cultural Center is my baby.”
Nicki Bottko, student life activities coordinator, echoes LyLy’s enthusiasm for the center. “It’s a wonderful place,” Nicki said. “Students get together and discuss social justice and advocacy. They care about Inver Hills and want to make the world a better place for all of us.”
Nicki added that LyLy is an ideal spokesperson for cultural diversity. “LyLy is so organized and passionate,” she said. “She wants to help everyone and get everyone involved.”
A graduate of Henry Sibley High School, LyLy grew up in St. Paul. She currently resides in Eagan, Minn., and has a dog, Jen, an “average mutt” she adores. LyLy’s goal after Inver is to transfer to a four-year college or university with an excellent social justice program.
“I love advocacy,” she said, “and I enjoy the technical side of political science. My dream would be working in higher education. I can see myself as the director of a college’s cultural center.”