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  • IPFW Student and Burmese Leader Shares His Success with New Immigrant Literacy Program Members
For Immediate Release
May 03, 2010

IPFW Student and Burmese Leader Shares His Success with New Immigrant Literacy Program Members

Key Info

  • Kyaw “Joe” Soe to be first member of the Burmese community to graduate with an M.S.Ed.
  • Members of the IPFW New Immigrant Literacy Program to attend IPFW Commencement May 12

FORT WAYNE, Ind.— On May 12, Kyaw “Joe” Soe will be among approximately 1,800 students receiving degrees at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne’s (IPFW) Commencement ceremony. Like all the graduates, he will have family and friends in the audience sharing his special moment. But unlike the other graduates, Soe will have some very special guests cheering him on. As the director of IPFW New Immigrant Literacy Program (NILP), he has invited dozens of Burmese children and parents to the ceremony. His goal is to show them what a real university Commencement ceremony is like and that a college education is attainable. Soe will be the first member of the Burmese community to earn a Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.).

Soe came to Fort Wayne in 1993 as a political refugee from Burma. In his 17 years in the city, he studied at IPFW and earned an Associate of General Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, and this May, a Master of Science in Education. In 2003, he started the Burmese Literacy Program in a makeshift classroom in Centlivre Village Apartments. In 2006, the program evolved into the IPFW NILP and was run by Soe through the School of Education. The program helps Burmese children transition into the American school system, as well as educates parents on American culture. Hundreds of children have benefited from the program.

Soe shared a success story from the program. “I met a young boy, who was a first grader at the time, in a parent-teacher conference. His teacher was telling his mother he would be held back. I remember he was crying and his mother was very sad. I asked her to join my literacy program, and she and her son never missed a tutoring session. Her son is now a sixth grader and one of the top in his class.”

This accomplished father of three decided to invite the participants of the program for several reasons. “Such a Commencement will encourage Burmese youth to look for big dreams in their futures. The parents can take this opportunity to teach their children that they can do it too,” said Soe.

After graduation, Soe will continue running the NILP. He also plans to work with the local school districts to reach out to new immigrant families. He hopes to extend his community service and recruit at least 200 volunteers in this upcoming fall semester, mostly education majors, to help him reach out. “There are about 7,000 Burmese who live and work in Fort Wayne. The families need guidance and direction in educating their children. Because of the degrees I earned at IPFW, I’m well equipped and have much to offer.”

For more information, contact Kyaw Soe, director of the IPFW New Immigrant Literacy Program, at 260-489-2585.

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