Lam Hoang has been a parent leader and member of Early Learning Multnomah’s Parent Accountability Council (PAC) for two years. But it wasn’t long ago that she felt isolated and alone, raising her first child.
Lam moved to Multnomah County ten years ago from her home in Vietnam. She joined her husband, who had been living here since 1995. Lam didn’t have any friends or family and knew only a few people in the Vietnamese community.
After the birth of her first child, a son, Lam’s loneliness grew and she became depressed. Fortunately, a friend told her about the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and suggested they might be able to help. Soon after, Lam was working with a parent educator through Parent Child Development Services (PCDS) who connected her to the support she needed. Shortly after, her family was participating in Habitat for Humanity’s program to build their own house in Gresham.
Today, Lam and her husband have three children—an eight‐year‐old boy, and two girls, ages six and three. IRCO helped her build confidence and hone her leadership skills so she could advocate for herself and her children in a system that’s not set up to allow immigrants like her to succeed. She put these skills to use navigating the complicated process of preschool enrollment and waiting lists, learning about the array of elementary school options, and communicating with teachers and administrators along the way.
Lam’s experience and leadership made her an ideal candidate for ELM’s Parent Accountability Council, or PAC. Today, she is one of 12 PAC members who ELM regularly consults for advice as it works to address the biases and barriers that children and families of color face throughout early childhood.
“Parents have a lot of hopes and dreams for their kids,” Lam said, “And they also hold a lot of life experiences and information that can help to improve the community and schools that their kids are a part of.”
Lam has always valued education, but now she has the confidence to speak up for what she wants for her own children. She knows she has a place at the table and that her opinion is valued. She also appreciates being part of a diverse group of parents who have come together to share their knowledge and experience.
“All parents want a good education and environment for their kids, fair treatment by teachers and classrooms that will appreciate and honor different cultures,” Lam said. “At PAC, parents can say what they think and feel confident that their voice will be heard and that their ideas will help more kids and families to have access to good, quality preschools that will support a child’s learning and growth.”
This year, Lam also began serving as one of five PAC representatives on ELM’s Oversight Council, the body in charge of ensuring ELM meets its state‐funded requirements and outcomes.
We know there are many more opportunities ahead for Lam and her children, and we can’t wait to see what they do next!