Tag Archives: University of St. Thomas

From KFC to Chinese Child Care in NE Mpls

Larry Yan approaches the day with gusto – whether the day begins at the original Chinese Child Care Center in Roseville, at the Chinese Child Care Center on Pierce Butler Road in St. Paul or the sparkling new Chinese Day Care and Preschool that straddles Northeast Minneapolis and Saint Anthony Village.  He will need that energy as he tackles the challenges of caring for and teaching scores of eager children, age 16 months to four years – now nearly 60 children at three sites.  Young learners are tackling the basics,  learning their numbers, colors, foods and more in English and Mandarin Chinese in an environment graced at every turn by music, art, dance  and Chinese culture.

My introductory poking around took me to the brand new Northeast site.  Larry has to be a magician.  He’s somehow managed to convert the former Kentucky Fried Chicken on Kenzie Terrace with bright walls decorated with art, a playground carved from nothing, and a warmth that inspires growth and learning.  I couldn’t help but notice that he has even exorcised the grease smell, which Larry allows took considerable doing.

Passing drivers may not even notice the simple “Chinese Day Care and Preschool” sign that’s been posted for several months.  Neighbors don’t realize that Larry and his wife Junxia Li have been at work for over a year, preparing for the first class of learners who arrived in September 2010.  They gutted the building, replaced the electricity and plumbing, completed massive stacks of forms for permits, licenses and financial reports.  They hired two qualified teachers and made arrangements for professionals to provide dance and music instruction.  They tested every inch for safety, painted all of the concrete block walls, and covered every wall with vibrant colors, letters, pictures and inspirational thoughts.  They made arrangements for fresh lunches to be delivered each day by a small local restaurant

The details are nothing new to Larry and Junxia.  This is their third child care/preschool site.

It all started eleven years ago when Jungxia  started a family day care center at their Roseville home.  In no time they had exceeded the home care limits and had aggregated a waiting list.  When Jack and Jill moved out of St. Christopher’s Church on Hamline and Highway 36, they seized the opportunity and opened their first facility.  Four years ago they opened a second child care center/preschool near the Yinghua Academy in St. Paul.   Though some of their young clients are adoptees, that number is dwindling as China puts limits of foreign adoptions.  Other children come from Chinese or mixed families.  None of the Centers is neighborhood based – children from throughout the Cities and from far-flung suburbs are dropped off each day to immerse themselves in the language and culture of China.

Larry positively glows as he talks about the special features of the child care and preschool programs.  There’s folk dance and music, celebration of the Chinese New Year, a “graduation” ceremony for four-year-olds headed on to kindergarten—an event that draws over 300 friends and family members to a grand event at St. Christophers and that features each “graduate” in an individual performance representative of Chinese culture.

Larry came to the US in 1989 as part of an exchange program with the University of St. Thomas where he enrolled in the Curriculum and Instruction program at the UST.  Junxia and their young son joined him 3 ½ years later.  Larry taught at Breck in Golden Valley, then took a turn at the travel business.  Meanwhile Junxia was building the family business at home, ready to take the plunge to open the first center in Roseville.

Larry and Junxia have plans.  Though the enrollment at the Northeast program is miniscule at present the school will accommodate 25-30 students. They will continue to work with Yinghua Academy in St. Paul and nearby in the former Putnam School in nearby Northeast Minneapolis.  They will outreach to nearby neighborhood and community groups. The children are already scheduled to perform in February for the Roseville Seniors!

Northeast Minneapolis residents and nearby neighbors in St Anthony Village have a rare privilege to welcome these new neighbors to the community.  Out with KFC and on with these young global citizens!

Huan Ying!  (Welcome!)

A Gubernatorial Debate Without Mention of Social Issues

“Don’t worry, they’ll just build a new building,” my friend assured me.  I was entering a much-vaunted auditorium at the University of St. Thomas with a cup of contraband coffee in my hand, timidly murmuring that they would have to re-carpet if I were to spill a drop.

The old anecdote crossed my mind recently as I entered an even newer auditorium, this time to hear a “debate” among gubernatorial candidates sponsored.  As I tried to listen to the spins and dodges, I kept reminding myself to think no small thoughts.  If anyone spilled the beans on the candidates’ avoidance tactics, the powers would indeed build a new building.  The reminder was pricey, painful and a prod to rethink the ways in which those who care about social issues respond to – better yet, get in front of – the issues.

Needless to say, the folks at this debate heard nary a word about social issues.  The prevailing mantra was predictable: “the economy, stupid” – writ large and arguably a little late.  Attendees could blithely stride past peaceful protesters who were not allowed to walk, talk or carry their message to the veranda of the Opus College of Business building.

The candidates are justifiably terrified that any sidelong glance at social issues will raise the hackles and open the checkbooks of those who prefer to ponder the “E” topic – taxes, job creation, the rights of the have’s, fiscal policy.  Candidates and their supporters alike have a preconceived notion of social activists.  For those who struggle to peace and justice, that’s a painful but necessary admission.  I’m reminded of Robert Burns who nailed it:  “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”

This painful – not to mention expensive –  experience of the debate, now tempered by time, sharpened my focus  on the absence of social issues from the candidate debates in particular, from media coverage of the campaigns, and from public discourse in general.   Those who care about pay inequity, the rights of immigrants, domestic abuse, trafficking, the homeless, learning opportunities of poor kids, and other real life issues need to internalize the world view of the candidates.  Electoral politics, statistics, and language both shape and reflect a world view that is as real as it is unlike our own way of looking at things.  Some possible concrete steps to getting on the agenda:

  • Change the questions (priority #1) –  If the candidate is bombarded with the same question in various venues, the issue makes its way to the candidate’s and the media’s agenda.
  • Change the tone – Position yourself or your organization as  a co-conspirator against some common foe.  Invent one if necessary.
  • Load them with the numbers – This I learned from the indomitable Nina Rothchild.  Statistics talk.  Sometimes they speak the truth; in the hands of liars, they lie or obfuscate.  Consider the source and the presentation. Apply the KISS principle and be able to back it up with hard data.
  • Fact check – In the digital age it’s easy enough to track the facts.  Don’t swallow but follow the information track.
  • Craft and communicate a vision – Everybody wants to look ahead to a better world – Create a vision that embraces positive change broadly defined to include crazy ideas such as justice.
  • Listen, painful as that may be – Filter the rhetoric and get into the minds of those who echo, rather than initiate, strategies for addressing the issues.
  • Invoke the founding fathers – Everybody else does.  It was Jefferson himself who wrote that:  “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.”
  • Remember that it’s not about laying new carpet  it’s about building a new building with a new foundation of social, as well economic, building blocks.
  • Speak up – you’ve got the facts, the stories,  and  TJ’s confidence in the people to back you up.

A passion for info access is the dominant thread in my DNA.  Though the sources, format, techniques and skills change with the times, information is a powerful and relentless tool which, if used with skill and a little panache, will bring about change, starting with a revised agenda.  Posts re. the power and sources of information are about to boil over in my head.  Watch for future posts here and elsewhere.