ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Students at a St. Paul school received a special treat Friday thanks to a Hmong refugee who wanted to pay it forward.
Kay Yang is now a CEO, but she came to the United States as a refugee in the 1980s. As a way to give back, she bought lunch for all the students at Hmong College Prep Academy.
More than 2,000 students attend HCPA, and of those, about 85% qualify for free and reduced lunch.
“Many of our students live in poverty. Some of our students are Karen students, just been here in the U.S. for the last 10 years,” said Dr. Christianna Hang, superintendent.
Kay Yang can relate. Thirty years ago, she came to the U.S. as a refugee. When she visited the academy, it was like going back in time.
“When I came and toured the school, I just fell in love with all the students because they remind me of me when I came to the States with just the clothes on my back,” Yang said.
After her visit, she knew what she needed to do. Now a CEO, this was her chance to pay it forward. So Yang decided to go ahead and buy lunch, which entailed 1,000 Happy Meals complete with cheeseburgers, McNuggets, apples, Go-Gurt and a toy. Before Friday, most of the students at the school had never had a Happy Meal before.
“It’s every kid’s dream to have McDonald’s at school,” 4th grader Adriana Vang said.
It was something they could have with their regular school lunch. To top it all off, there was ice cream for dessert.
“It’s just amazing. I’ve never seen this before in my whole life,” said Jelene Yang, a 4th-grade student.
Instead of a Happy Meal, students in grades 6 through 12 received vouchers for extra value meals. Kay and her partners spent about $20,000 on lunch, but it’s hard to put a price on this kind of generosity.
“I looked at these kids and I had tears in my eyes and I knew right away I had to do something,” Yang said. “It’s so amazing. No words can describe that.”
Hmong Home Healthcare helped Yang and her company AK Equity pick up the tab.
About 90% of students at Hmong College Prep Academy graduate and go on to college.