A father’s dream fulfilled, a family’s legacy almost complete


THE YANG FAMILY (left to right): Kong, Sue, Ze, Dao, Teng, Cheng and Lang (bottom, left to right): Zong, Dad, Mom, Chia and Pa. Courtesy of Sheng Yang

All 10 children from one Oroville family will soon share the same achievement: Chico State graduate

Xue and Ong Moua Yang brought 10 children into this world: seven sons and three daughters. On May 20, 2021, all 10 children will have graduated from Chico State. The family’s incredible story is a testament to hard work, family resilience and kept promises.

In 1984, the Yangs immigrated from Laos to the U.S. in search of a better life. The family touched down in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 and lived there until a paternal uncle, who attended Chico State, recommended the family move to Butte County.

The Yang family has lived in Oroville since 1989. Papa Yang learned some basic English, but Mama Yang only spoke Hmong, the language of their ancestors.  

Despite the language barrier, Papa Yang attended Butte College and earned an associate’s degree in science management and marketing in the spring of 1995; Mama Yang raised the children and instilled the dream of achieving higher education like their father. The Yangs are devoted Christians, adopting the religion during their immigration to the U.S. The entire family attended church on Sundays, and the family continues to meet every week for an evening prayer. 

The first born, Kong, came into the world as his parents fled Laos.

Papa Yang appointed Kong as the role model. “He said I was the mirror to all of my siblings, and that has always been at the back on my mind,” Kong said. “Everything he did was for education, education.”

Kong enrolled at Chico State in 2001 unsure of his path. “I was in the dark, pretty much just joined because our parents wanted us to have an education,” he recalled.

He eventually picked social science as a major. Kong worked at a local nonprofit while attending school and found the skills relevant. It took six years to complete his bachelor’s, but he’s thankful for all the opportunities Chico State provided.

Kong’s siblings followed his lead. Seven of them went straight to Chico State after graduating high school, and three attended Butte College before transferring to Chico State. Papa and Mama Yang watched nine of their children walk across the stage at University Stadium. 

In December 2019, Papa Yang became gravely ill after returning from Laos and Thailand. He struggled with dialysis and declining health during his last days and died at age 57.

The dream of graduating all 10 children from college survived him. 

Soon, per family tradition, they will all meet for a graduation photo around a grove of trees between the Student Health Center and Acker Gym. They will meet behind the bleachers as they have done nine times before. Only this time, Papa Yang will be there in spirit.  

Pa, the 10th and the youngest of the Yang siblings, will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She chose psychology because she wanted to learn the different ways people communicate and how to improve communication. Pa plans to attend graduate school at Chico State and hopes to become a college professor. 

“(My father) saw education as one of the biggest doors to opening opportunities for success,” Pa said. “It just felt like he was modeling the type of person I want to be around. Being generous, loving unconditionally, that’s really big.”

Visiting Chico State for graduations as a child was a formative experience. Pa was naturally drawn to the university because of its beautiful buildings and inclusive community. Originally, she had other colleges in mind, but eventually chose Chico State as a senior in high school and continued the family tradition.  

“I am happy. I am happy … where I’m planted at Chico State. I believe God wants me here,” Pa said.

All of the Yang children are now married, except for Pa. There’s currently 16 grandchildren, and another one on the way. 

Xue and Ong Moua’s American dream came true. All of their children will become college graduates. The children, like their father and mother, are opening new doors of opportunity for their own families.

List of the Yang children, their majors and graduation dates:

  1. Kong Yang — social science — Spring 2006
  2. Sue Yang — business administration — Spring 2012
  3. Ze Yang — philosophy — Spring in 2009
  4. Dao Yang — psychology — Spring 2010
  5. Teng Yang — criminal justice — Spring 2012
  6. Zong Yang — journalism — Spring 2012
  7. Chia Yang — liberal studies — Spring 2013
  8. Cheng Yang — biology — Fall 2016
  9. Lang Yang — kinesiology — Spring 2019
  10. Pa Yang — psychology — Spring 2021

Melvin Bui can be reached at [email protected] or @Melvinbuii on Twitter.