Free, Public Charter School set to open in St. Paul Park

Posted 8/4/21

[email protected] When people think of charter schools, they often think of the expense because many of them are private schools. For Cross River Charter School, this is not the case. Cross …

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Free, Public Charter School set to open in St. Paul Park


[email protected]

When people think of charter schools, they often think of the expense because many of them are private schools. For Cross River Charter School, this is not the case. Cross River will be a public charter school which means that anyone can attend for free. The school will have an oracy focus while meeting the individual educational needs of its students in the classroom. Initially, the school will be K-5.

Cross River co-founder, Anne Vang-Lo met with The Journal to discuss the setup of the school. It is located at 920 Holley Avenue in St. Paul Park and occupies the back half of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Activities Building. The entrance can be found between the church and the activities building.

Initially Vang-Lo and her co-founders had looked at a building in Woodbury, but the renovations required would have taken too long to complete for a timely start to this school year. That lead her team to the current location. The wing of the building they will occupy was recently a school of natural sciences that closed, so the setup is perfect. It even includes secure access at every door of the building so students remain safe.

There are some shared aspects to the facility that will be shared with the other wing of the building, primarily the presentation space. If a speaker is brought in that would speak to the entire school, the lecture room that is enough to accommodate that many students is a shared space that does need to be reserved. The facility is still being prepared for students, but that is expected to be mostly complete before the open house takes place on August 14th at 11:00 a.m.

Why did Vang-Lo’s and her partners decide to start Cross River Charter School? Her story is far more interesting coming directly from her.

Cross River is a unique school. Every person, every group of people either running from war as refugees or immigrants at one time had to cross over a dangerous obstacle of unknown fate. It is a turning point for some. For refugees it could mean life or death. For many that symbolism is in the form of a river such the Mekong River for Hmong people, the Rio Grande for immigrants south of our border, or the Trail of Tears for Native Americans.

Cross River School represents that turning point in a child’s life, a place of learning and opportunities, of challenging growth, and unleashing a child’s full potential that he and she may not know they have. Unlike a raging river where people have to sink or swim, we strive for every student to not only swim but to thrive and excel.

This is not just Cross River’s story. This is also my story. I was born in a war-torn country and fled country as a little girl. My family had to cross the Mekong River where we saw many people did not make. We stayed in a refugee camp and had no idea what the future held. After a few years, hope arrived when we heard news that we were coming to America. A land of opportunities.

When we arrived with my family of 7 siblings and later added our two youngest sisters, and settled in Appleton, WI. I felt a fish out water. With only the English word of Pepsi and Yes, as a 9-year-old refugee from Laos, I was thrown into the church school. Just like the Mekong River again, it was either sink or swim. There were some teachers who struggled and did not know how to teach me I was so new. Thankfully, I had teachers who nurture me with patience, love, and care. Through their love of teaching and them believing in me, I slowly got my footing and began to thrive, as did my brothers and sisters in small town America. It was these first teachers who left an impression on me and inspired me to become an educator. What they gave me, I want to give to every child, the love of learning.

Today, between me and siblings, we have nurse from RI college, a teacher from Amherst and Columbia University, a University Program Director from Carlton College and U W of Milwaukee, an OB-GYN from Wayne State, an HR Director from U-Mass, a Lawyer from U-Penn, a Business Entrepreneur from Brown University and a IT from UW-Milwaukee and me, an educator from U W of Oshkosh with a BSE and MSE and second MSE from UW Madison.

My life story is an example of what happens when we help young people believe in the power of their dreams. At Cross River, that is our vision and goal.

We may not be for every child, but for those families and students who want to explore and unleash their full potential we want to be that place.

Studies show that death is the #2 fear. Do you know the #1 fear is? Public speaking. Public speaking requires good oracy skills, being a good and effective communicator is important in today’s competitive world. Public speaking is also about leadership. At Cross Rivers, we incorporate oracy skills such as storytelling, improvisation, acting along with a rigorous core subjects such as math, science, English, etc.

We want our students to thrive academically but also be confident communicators and public speakers. No other school in this area offers oratory skills like us.

We have partnership with motivational speakers that we intend to bring in to work with our students. We want to host student-led versions of TED talk where they get to speak in front of their classmates.

To learn more about Cross River Charter School and to enroll, visit www.crossriversc. org or stop by to their open house on August 14th at 11:00 a.m.