Sam Ouk

Born in a Thai refugee camp, Sam Ouk understands the plight of the immigrant and refugee students he works with at Faribault Public Schools. Ouk, who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 2, is being honored for his tireless advocacy. (Photo courtesy of Faribault Public Schools)

Faribault Public Schools Equity and Multilingual Coordinator Sam Ouk was recently selected as the 2020 winner of the Mary Diaz award for his advocacy for equity in multilingual programming and pathways to graduation for immigrant and refugee students.

The award is presented annually by MinneTESOL, a professional association of teachers of English as a Second Language in Minnesota and neighboring states dedicated to the education and support of students acquiring English at all levels of public and private education.

Mary Diaz was one of the founders of Hamline University’s ESL and bilingual programs. She also worked for the Comprehensive Assistance Center, housed in the Hamline School of Education, from which she provided technical assistance to school districts serving English learners to help them meet Civil Rights Act requirements. Receiving the award is especially meaningful for Ouk, who studied under Diaz at Hamline.

“Having known her, it’s a great honor and very meaningful. I know the work she did in terms of advocating for students, so I’m very honored to be given her award,” Ouk said. “The meaning of the work itself, helping our most vulnerable students, providing them with opportunities, helping give them a voice and empowering them through acquiring language and having their culture be recognized is work I will never get tired of doing.”

Ouk will receive the Mary Diaz award Friday, Nov. 20 at the Minnesota English Learner Education Conference.

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