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Hsakushee Zan

Entrepreneurship Award

Mother, bilingual educator and former refugee

Hello, my name is Hsakushee Zan. I am an educator in bilingual education at St. Paul Public Schools. I live in St. Paul with my supportive husband and our beautiful children. I originally came from Thailand as a refugee, but my roots trace back to Burma, now known as Myanmar. When I first arrived in the United States, I felt a sense of freedom because I could see the potential for my future and my family's. It was a joyful moment for me, especially after spending so much time in a refugee camp. As refugees, we often felt hopeless, lacking freedom and optimism. Every day was a daunting challenge, and survival in the refugee camp was a constant struggle.

Coming to the U.S. presented its own set of challenges, especially learning a new language. We had to work exceptionally hard to provide for our family. Overcoming these daily challenges was a formidable experience. Not only was learning the language difficult, but I also desired to attend school, and transportation was a significant obstacle. However, I was determined and dedicated to providing for and supporting my family. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change our family's circumstances.

Another challenge I had to overcome was the stereotypes associated with refugees. I needed to prove that I am not just a label; I am a person like you, working hard to provide for my family. My primary goal was to raise my children in an environment where they could thrive. Refugees are some of the hardest working people I know. Debunking the notion that we are here to take jobs is nonsensical. We work diligently, just like anyone else, and earn our respect. My success is a result of family, hope and hard work. 

My passion and dream have always been to attain higher education to promote and improve my community. Education is the key to a better future, and that's why I am motivated and inspired to work every day and give back to the community. One of my proudest accomplishments is the establishment of a Karen language program offered by St. Paul Public Schools. It's truly amazing to see these necessary initiatives in action.

Last but not least, my advice for refugees is never to give up and never forget who you are. Knowing that you are contributing to society just like the others is important. You are a member of the growing community here in Minnesota.

Hsakushee Zan
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