Gaoly Yang is one of the 80,000 Hmong people who live in Minnesota after fleeing from genocide in Southeast Asia to Thailand refugee camps in the late 1970s. After learning English as a second language, Yang pursued her college degree in human service administration from the Metropolitan State University and committed the next 40 years of her life to delivering social services to people in need.
She has held numerous positions, including serving as a health interpreter to newly arrived refugee families, co-founding and managing a non-profit organization to address the needs of women facing domestic violence and homebound/isolated refugee seniors, and administrating federal funds for home- and community-based services for older adults at Metropolitan Area Agency for 25 years.
Yang accepted her current position as a grants specialist coordinator for the Disability Services Division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services in 2017. In this position, she helps people with disabilities by managing state funds, facilitating grantee selection, negotiating grant contracts and monitoring grantee performance. Since she started this role, the department has awarded 35 innovation grants, totaling more than $6 million, to community organizations and individuals serving people with disabilities in Minnesota. The grants will help people with disabilities achieve integrated and competitive employment, live in the most integrated settings and connect with others in their communities. Yang said she looks for innovative ideas to help people with disabilities live, work and engage in the communities of their choice.