Notable Minority Executives: Chris Her-Xiong

Founder and executive director, Hmong American Peace Academy

  • Category: Notable Minority Executives
  • Number of years working in your current industry: 30
  • Undergrad degree/university: Central College
  • Graduate degree/university: See bio

Born in Laos, Chris Her-Xiong, the founder and executive director of the Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA), and her family left the country in 1975, escaping from communist forces when she was 10 years old – eventually ending up in Iowa.

In 1995 she published “The Hmong: The People and Their History,” which contributed to her being named the 2009 Hmong Woman of the Year by the Hmong Consortium of Milwaukee.

Her-Xiong eventually became the first Hmong teacher hired at Milwaukee Public Schools.

In 2000, she challenged Hmong community leaders to create an organization that preserves the Hmong culture and language while helping students become knowledgeable American citizens.

By 2004, HAPA opened its doors as a public charter school of the Milwaukee Public Schools system. What began as a K-5 school with 200 students today serves more than 1,800 K4-12 largely economically disadvantaged students.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 80% of HAPA families did not have a computer at home but the school was able to secure WiFi access and enough Chromebooks for all of its students.

Despite the pandemic, daily virtual attendance averages 98%.

Construction is currently under way to build a new high school so HAPA can serve even more students.

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