DREAM BIG: 2056 :: Sellout Crowd Congratulated Mary Thao & Yauo Yang, Co-Winners of the 2019 Stanley F. Staples Award (& Was Wowed by an Award-Winning Video by DCE Students)

Written by Brad Karger

The presentation of the 2019 Stanley F. Staples Award at the Dream Big: 2056 event had a surprise ending . . .

TWO winners — Mary Thao and Yauo Yang.

William Tehan representing the Ruder Ware Law Firm, the corporate sponsor of the Stanley F. Staples Award; Mayla Yang, Yauo’s wife; Yauo Yang; & Mary Thao at the Dream Big: 2056 event held April 6. (Photo courtesy of Brad Karger.)

In the 4-year existence of the award, both individuals had previously been nominated. This year, they BOTH won.

Mary Thao

Mary Thao was selected for her work on the Wausau School Board and the Wausau City Council. She was credited for being a powerful Hmong civic leader, an inspirational female leader, and a role model for many — particularly Hmong girls.

Yauo Yang

Yauo Yang was honored for being an educator and a role model for a life of service to others, with a special emphasis on those who have been marginalized because of race, economic status, health, or other factors. Yauo works full-time in a leadership role with D.C. Everest Schools, and he is the pastor of a non-denominational church, The Cross, which he helped form. Yauo credited his wife, Mayla, for providing him the support that made it possible for him to fulfill his battlefield promise to God and serve the people who need him most, such as those who are incarcerated, homeless, addicted, or sickly. Together, Yauo and Mayla have 6 children and still make 3 full-time jobs between them work.

Nell Anderson, retired Director of ESL Education for Wausau Schools, gave the keynote address and talked about the challenge that Wausau Schools faced to teach many students a second language and to meet all of the educational standards for graduation. The history lesson was important, but what really resonated was the love that Nell had for all her students and particularly those who had the challenge of learning in a second language.

Dream Big: 2056 Keynote Speaker Nell Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Brad Karger.)

The banquet had many high points, including a performance by a Hmong girls dance team, Paj Ntshua Nplaim (the Rose).

Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger with Hmong dance team members: Enna Lo, Melody Lo, Kareena Lor, Douachee Xiong, Elaina Xiong, Sofia Xiong, and Kylina Xiong.​  (Photo courtesy of Brad Karger.)

There was also a special competition between 3 school principals: Jason Sinz and Jeb Steckbauer, of Wausau Schools, and Matt Raether, of D.C. Everest Schools, who performed a traditional Hmong dance. The winner of the dance-off was Matt Raether.

Principals Jason Sinz, Matt Raether, and Jeb Steckbauer participate in a Hmong dance-off at the Dream Big: 2056 event. (Photo courtesy of Brad Karger.)

My personal highlight was the viewing of a video on the Hmong immigration to Wausau that was created by 2 very talented D.C. Everest students: Yefang Lee and Lily Thao.

Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger with student movie creators Yefang Lee (left) and Lily Thao (center), who have teamed up with Ekin Vang (right) for their next project. (Photo courtesy of Brad Karger.) 

The girls’ accurate, concise, and moving video —  The Acculturation of the Hmong: Wausau Partner Schools Conflict — took 7th place in a national competition. It portrays a community in conflict, struggling to adapt to a new demography, learning to live together. I invite you to learn more about the early days of Hmong resettlement in Wausau in their beautifully produced video below.

The main purpose of the Dream Big: 2056 event was to raise money for college scholarships, making it more possible for Hmong students to achieve their academic potential. This year’s scholarship recipients were:

  • Pajnra Xiong and Janessa Thao, from D.C. Everest Senior High School
  • Yi Lu, from Wausau West High School
  • Lillian Xiong from Wausau East​ High School

Congratulations to all involved in this great celebratory event!

Brad Karger - Marathon County AdministratorBrad Karger

Marathon County Administrator

In his Administrator role, Brad Karger leads an organization with 700+ employees and an annual budget of more than $162 million. Brad has been in leadership positions with Marathon County for the past 30 years. He is known statewide for generating innovative ideas and solutions to problems, openness and transparency, and a commitment to community service that extends well beyond the normal workday.  Email Brad Karger.

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