Among students from Detroit visit U-M campus

April 16, 1997

ANN ARBOR—Project Lighthouse, a three-year-old University of Michigan program that offers young Hmong students from Detroit a glimpse of university life, is also benefiting the U-M students who serve as project leaders.

Sponsored by the U-M Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, Project Lighthouse organizes campus tours to encourage Hmong students between sixth- and 12th-grade to attend college. Hmong students are from Laotian families which fled to Detroit as war refugees during the 1970s. Every year, the program selects and trains U-M student leaders to bring Hmong students to the University for a visit.

“There are very few programs like this in the Midwest, yet there is a great need,” said Marie P. Ting, Project Lighthouse coordinator. “Lighthouse not only serves Asian American youth, but serves the University students who are hired as student leaders because they get a taste of community service, and they get perspective on urban communities and the needs that exit.”

In February, Project Lighthouse invited about 80 seventh- to 12th-grade students from Detroit’s Osborne High and Nolan Middle schools to visit U-M. The students experienced different aspects of a university life in residence halls, classes and social campus activities. They discussed financial aid and admission issues. They also watched role plays which ranged in topics from studying in school to staying out of gangs.

Amy Y. Liu, a U-M junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, said the project is significant for its impact on the Hmong students’ future.

“The Hmong students may not realize the importance of higher education and empowering themselves with knowledge,” Liu said. “We try to let them know that there are people who care. We want to instill in them the attitude that they have options in life and can make them come true if they pursue them.”

Paul Kim, one of the 20 U-M student leaders this year, said that the campus tours allow the Hmong students to “paint their own picture of college.” He said he was impressed by the amount of work, effort, and time that the student leaders contributed and the trust that was built up within the group.

“There are intangibles in the student leaders that are unmeasurable. They can’t be taught. Nor do their effects go unnoticed,” Kim said. “These intangibles include heart, sincerity and personal experiences. This translates into a genuine transference of feelings that the Hmong students can relate to.”

The Hmong students from Osborne and Nolan will visit the campus again for a one-day tour in April. Ting, who designed Project Lighthouse in 1993, hopes that the student leaders will meet other students on campus through the program, and find ways that they can get involved in different aspects of campus life.

“I hope to see a lot of fruit produced in terms of helping students from Detroit and to let them see that there is so much more to life than what they are experiencing now,” Ting said.