Hmong language and learning camp underway in Brooklyn Park

It's Sunisa Lee Day at the i-Strive Hmong Summer Camp, and dozens of kids are trying their hand at some Olympic sports. 

The idea for the camp started 19 years ago with Dr. Sally Baas, who recognized the need for a summer camp specifically dedicated to Hmong youth while she was teaching at Concordia University. 

From there, the Hmong Culture and Language Program was born. 

"Our goal is always teaching reading, writing and speaking in Hmong, so that the students can talk with their grandmas and grandpas," said Baas. 

This year, the program has changed names and leadership, and has moved from St. Paul to North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, which was a strategic location for the group. 

"It's over here for a reason...the Brooklyn Park area (is) the second largest Hmong population in the state next to St. Paul," said Pang Yang, who now runs the camp with her non-profit, Minnesota Zej Zog

The camp teaches kids from high school to pre-school about everything from farming to family. 

"It's what parents have been dreaming of. A lot of our students are coming from districts where there are no Hmong language programming and this is that missing piece," said Yang. 

This year, they've also teamed up with the Hmong Early Childhood Coalition to welcome preschoolers for the first time.

"This is where they are finally starting to develop their identity, who they are. This is the foundation," said Nee Xiong of the Hmong Early Childhood Coalition. 

The effort has been a true labor of love for Yang, who has already seen the impact community and culture is having on these kids. 

"It's worth it because you see the smiles on students' faces. You see them growing their Hmong language. You see them connecting to their parents," said Yang. 

This year, the camp welcomed 250 students, and they expect to welcome more in the coming years if they can secure the funding to make it all happen.