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The Khmer Parent Association: Serving Cambodian Americans with Disabilities in Long Beach, California

A group of people holding a banner reading "Khmer Parent Association - please help to support our youth for the future."

Khmer Parent Association

Long Beach, Calif. – The Khmer Parent Association (KPA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, which serves the community of Long Beach, California. The mission is to “produce tomorrow’s leaders of today’s Khmer youth through education.” The organization serves approximately 1,000 people a year including youths, adults and the elderly. KPA has a prominent role in the community because of its commitment to support children with education services and residents with cultural awareness and health education.

History of KPA

After throwing a small party to celebrate high school graduates in the Long Beach community, Chad Hopson founded the KPA in 1995. In 1994, when Hopson’s oldest son graduated with high honors in high school, Hopson and her family attended the graduation ceremony to showcase their happiness and support for her son. However, Hopson “felt so bad” when she recognized graduates she knew, and did not see their parents in the audience. Therefore, she decided to throw a party for all of the graduates to celebrate their success.

After the positive response to the party, which encouraged graduates to continue to strive for their goals and success, a guidance counselor who worked closely with the school district pulled Hopson aside. The guidance counselor wanted to work with Hopson, because she believed Hopson could reach students. The guidance counselor explained that there was a high rate of high school drop outs at the time, and parents did not “know what to do to help their children the way you do, so you need to do something.”

Hopson believes children must have the support of their parents to graduate high school and to take advantage of opportunities to become successful. As a parent, she works with other parents to ensure this occurs.

Programs and Services: A Focus on Education and Cultural Awareness

Education services for Cambodian children include tutoring services, scholarships awards and leadership development training. KPA offers free after school tutoring services for students between second and twelfth grades. Moreover, KPA awards scholarships every year to students who graduate from high school and are pursuing higher education. The leadership development training prepares high school students for their college transition. In fact, KPA partners with the American Red Cross to teach students study skills, time management skills, how to overcome fears, how to interact with new people and when and what resources to utilize when students need help.

Cultural awareness is promoted through the annual Mother and Daughter Conference, which seeks to build and strengthen relationships in different cultures to create dialog between generations. The goal of the conference is to prevent intergenerational gaps and conflicts by having mothers and daughters communicate to understand the difference in each other’s generation and how the culture has evolved. Cultural awareness is to create a strong and healthy cultural pride and ethnic identity in the Long Beach community.

Community health education is provided through the Cambodian Wellness Program and the Annual Health Forum. The Cambodian Wellness Program educates the community on cultural perceptions of chronic health conditions. In addition, the program focuses on what are stress and anxiety, as well as healthy coping skills to deal with stress and anxiety. Moreover, KPA hosts an Annual Health Forum for the community. Past topics have covered women’s preventative health, mental health, diabetes, dental health, cervical cancer, Hepatitis b and more. The goal of the health forum is to educate the community on stigma, early screening and treatments for the health topics covered.

Specific health education is provided through translation services. KPA has staff that can attend doctor visits with parents and families to translate information between doctors and patients. Translation services allow residents in the community to seek health services without the fear of being misunderstood by health professionals. In addition, translation services are helpful when children or people are diagnosed with a disability. KPA staff is able to translate for doctors, including diagnosis information and referrals. KPA seeks to break the stigma about people with disabilities and explain that if a parent’s child has a disability, the child still has his or her own special ability. KPA founder Chan Hopson explains that kindness, love, support and empathy is the key to help children with disabilities grow and to have the life they want.

For more information about the Khmer Parent Association, please visit: http://www.khmerparent.org.

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Julie Lun
Julie Lun
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