Hmong American Peace Academy Students Learn and Grow with Mentoring/Tennis Program



The Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA) is a MPS Charter School founded by Dr. Chris Her-Xiong in 2004. HAPA’s first year began with 200 students, which has now expanded to over 950 students from K4-12.

The HAPA Mentoring/Tennis Program was developed to help the underserved, trauma sensitive, Hmong youth in Milwaukee. Dr. Her-Xiong was aware that exposure to diversity and competition would help build their network and comradery. She wanted her students to have mentors who would serve as role models to help evaluate and transition from high school to college and provide support throughout the college process.

Hurvis/ADAMM discovered that the Hmong community was underserved despite having a large presence in Milwaukee. Many of these families suffered traumatic experiences from living in refugee camps in Laos during the Vietnam War, with limited education and low-income. Most students who attend HAPA are first or second generation, and almost 90% receive free or reduced-cost lunch.

Having language barriers and being sheltered from the larger world, students don’t always see the bigger picture of how diversifying their network and higher education can benefit them and their families. HAPA’s students are academically successful; however, many who attend college do not complete an undergraduate degree and some leave within their first year. High Hmong student college non-completion rates made Hurvis/ADAMM question if there were adequate resources for financial aid and mentorship, and would more resources have an impact on HAPA’s students’ success in college and life? Understanding the possible barriers that hold students back from being successful, Hurvis/ADAMM developed a program to empower students to peak performance through passionate engagement in education, mentorship and sports.

John Paul Kiatoukaysy, Hurvis/ADAMM Operations Coordinator, developed and led the six-week mentoring/tennis program along with colleague James Forster and HAPA Athletic Director, Luke McAvoy. The collaborative program involved mentorship, college readiness and building life skills through sports. They were able to bring in mentors from diverse areas including local community members, the Rufus King High School girl’s tennis team and the Marquette University club tennis team.

Through this collaboration, Al Hurvis/ ADAMM Education Foundation Inc. has agreed to provide two scholarships throughout the year specifically for HAPA students. The scholarships will promote higher education and help students through their college career and are renewable for up to four years. In spring, Hurvis/ADAMM awarded two graduates the inaugural HAPA Scholarship for their academic achievements.

Recipients are Chiseng Thao, who will attend UW – Madison, and major in Computer Science; and Suljan Thao, who will attend UW – Milwaukee and pursue a Microbiology degree.