General Vang Pao Elementary School: A First For Fresno
FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) —
General Vang Pao was the beloved leader of the Hmong community.
Now his legacy has become a permanent part of a Southeast Fresno community.
The Fresno Unified School District voted unanimously to name a new elementary school after the late leader.
"This would be something profound, historical in a sense. The Hmong have never been acknowledged in such a way. I know it's just an elementary school but for the Hmong it's just a little bit more special," said Chineng Vang, General Vang Pao's youngest son.
It is the only school named after a Hmong leader in the entire state, and most likely, the entire country.
The Hmong community collected more than 10,000 signatures in support.
"It would have a huge impact with Hmong all around the world," said Vang.
In addition to General Vang Pao, other names the board had to choose from included president John F. Kennedy, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and Valley icons William Saroyan and Martin Kearney.
General Vang Pao led Hmong troops in support of the United States during the Vietnam war, and now he's revered by a new generation of Hmong.
"I was born here, I was raised here. I may not know him personally, but from what I've heard, he was a great man and a great hero," said Truly Vang, a Clovis East High School student.
"Fresno Unified is really setting a trend here in stepping out to include a different group," said Fresno City Councilmember Blong Xiong.
Many see it as a huge stride toward not only acceptance, but recognition.
General Vang Pao Elementary School is still being built.
It's located near Cedar and Hamilton.
It's expected to open in August for the 2012-13 school year.