Opening Doors

Community Centers Connecting Working-Class Immigrant Families and Schools

by Nga-Wing Anjela Wong (Author)
©2018 Textbook XX, 162 Pages


In 2014—for the first time—over 50% of those in U.S. public schools are students of color. Furthermore, children of immigrants, the majority of whom are of Asian and Latinx origin, are the fastest-growing population in the U.S. Addressing their needs has become an important issue facing educators, researchers, and policy makers nationwide. More importantly, working-poor and low-income immigrant families of color need support and resources to negotiate and navigate between their home/community and their school/dominant society. Opening Doors: Community Centers Connecting Working-Class Immigrant Families and Schools examines the role and impact of a community-based organization (the Harborview Chinatown Community Center) and its youth program (the Community Youth Center), which is located in an East Coast city. Framed by the "Community Cultural Wealth" framework (Yosso, 2005) and Youth (Comm)Unity, Opening Doors argues that the Harborview Chinatown Community Center helps low-income Chinese immigrant families negotiate and navigate their multiple worlds. Specifically, this book examines the services and support for low-income and working-poor Chinese American immigrant families during out-of-school hours.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Opening Doors
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword (Wayne AU)
  • Works cited
  • Abbreviations
  • Chapter One: Community-Based Organizations Centering Family-Community School Partnerships
  • Youth (comm)unity
  • Youth (comm)unity as multiple worlds
  • Youth (comm)unity as authentic caring
  • Youth (comm)unity as culturally relevant understanding
  • Community cultural wealth
  • Out-of-school time
  • Post-1965 children of immigrants
  • Methodology and framework
  • The CYC staff members
  • The youth and parents
  • The activist scholar
  • Organization of the book
  • Note
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Two: Portraits of Chinatown, Harborview, and HCCC
  • Competing images of Chinatown
  • A portrait of Harborview’s Chinatown
  • Urban renewal and gentrification
  • Hope Elementary School
  • Harborview Chinatown Community Center
  • HCCC’s programs
  • “You’re fighting a garage”: HCCC’s struggles in finding a “home”
  • Community Youth Center
  • CYC’s academic programs
  • “Completely volunteer-run”: The tutoring program and test preparation classes
  • The significance of the “one-on-one relationship”: The ESL classes
  • Notes
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Three: Parents’ Relationship with Children and U.S. Schools
  • Family separation: The impact of immigration
  • “Paycheck to paycheck”: The need to always work
  • The dilemma: Restaurant work in ethnic communities
  • “Trying to learn English”: Adult English classes
  • “I don’t feel Welcome”: Immigrant parents and the U.S. school system
  • Schools with bilingual teachers and staffs
  • Notes
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Four: Youths’ Relationship with Family and School
  • Always at work: The impact of long workdays on parent–child relationships
  • “They don’t even care”: Relationships with schools and school personnel
  • “We are invisible”: Asian American youth in U.S. schools
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Five: Accessing Information, Opportunities, and Advocacy
  • Parents obtaining information and resources
  • “The staffs are like stars”: Youth accessing information, skills, and opportunities
  • CYC’s clubs serving as opportunities
  • Providing access to higher education: Serving as counselors and mentors
  • Negotiating with schools: Serving as advocates
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Six: The Importance of Youth (Comm)unity
  • “Cuz they care about those who goes there”: Providing a sense of family
  • “I want to give back”: The Youth Leadership program
  • “Asian Pride”: Providing a sense of ethnic self and identity
  • “All they see is the pressure”: Providing a sense of being a teenager
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Seven: Revisiting and reflecting with the CYC youth
  • “Knowing you have someone”: Familial and linguistic capitals
  • “The staffs broaden my views”: Social and navigational capitals
  • College access initiative
  • Monumental enrichment memories
  • “I have a voice to do something positive for the community”: Aspirational and resistant capitals
  • Conclusion
  • Works cited
  • Chapter Eight: Implication for policy and practice
  • For policy makers
  • For education advocates and school personnel
  • For researchers and scholars
  • Considerations for future research
  • Works cited
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


I am deeply grateful to many people for supporting me with this project.

First and foremost, I would like to thank my mommie and baba, Hoi Yan and Wing Yiu Wong, who have been a constant source of love, encouragement, and inspiration to me. Their resiliency offered me a place and space to pursue my dreams and persevere in life while keeping me grounded, humble, and honest. My lovin’ brothers, Alex and Alden Wong, have kept me sane with much laughs, love, and AAA memories! My paternal grandparents (yau yau and ngeen ngeen), Wong Ping Tsek and Yu Choi Kay, as well as goo ma Enid Wong, sok por Lau Fung Kun, Shelley Yee, my maternal grandparents, the entire Lau, Wong, Yee, and Yu familia, as well as my ancestors and elders have paved the way and laid the foundations for future generations.

Gloria Ladson-Billings (my Ph.D. advisor), Stacey Lee (my master’s advisor), and Lynet Uttal: Much gratitude for always giving me so much time and feedback and providing me a space to strengthen my ideas, voice, and research. It is a tremendous honor to be able to work with such distinguished scholars who are teaching much needed classes and engaging in extremely important research. Your encouraging words and support made me belong in academia. I will always remember our dialogues where your encouraging words, advocacy, and guidance were truly appreciated! ← ix | x →

I wish to thank sj Miller, Sarah Bode, Les Burns, Tim Swenarton, Sara McBride, and Luke McCord for their positive energy and gratitude throughout the entire process and all of the extraordinary staff at Peter Lang whose work pre-, in, and postproduction made this book possible, including the anonymous reviewers whose encouragement and suggestions strengthened this book. Thanks to sj Miller whose commitment and patience to this book have been invaluable.

To all of my educators, professors, and mentors that I had the opportunity to take courses with and/or learn from throughout my academic journey: Michael Apple, Wayne Au, Joanne Barker, Grace Lee Boggs, Bryan Brayboy, Patricia Burch, Jeff Chan, Malcolm Collier, Júlio Diniz-Pereira, Lorraine Dong, Thea Renda Abu El-Haj, Ms. Eng, Michael Fultz, Robert Fung, Mary Louise Gomez, Dan Gonzales, Marlon Hom, Brad Hughes and the WC staff, Shirley Hune, Madeline Hsu, Donna Hubbard, Peter Kiang, Nancy Kendall, Madhulika Khandelwal, Ben Kobashigawa, Yuri Kochiyama, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Stacey Lee, Ms. Leung, Dawn Mabalon, Eric Mar, Trinh Nguyen, Michael Olneck, Dan Pekarsky, Clarissa Rojas, Simone Schweber, Ms. Shee, Lai Lai Sheung, Rajini Srikanth, Betty Szeto, Minh Hoa Ta, Ate Allyson Tintiango-Cubales, Thầy Trần Bắc, Patrick Tran, Dorothy Tsurata, Phany Tum, Lynet Uttal, Angela Valenzuela, Benito Sunny Vergara, Craig Werner, Diane Williams, Linda Wing, Bernard Wong, Vivian Wu, Yeung bak bak, Grace Yoo, Zheng Xin-Rong, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education—particularly the Department of Educational Policy Studies, San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies, Department of Asian American Studies, SFSU’s 2002 AAS graduate students—Japheth Aquino, Tracy Buenavista, Kelly Vaughn, and Jeannie Wu), and the 1968 Third World Liberation Front!

I have been fortunate to connect with fabulous people through the years over delicious food, critical dialogues, outdoor adventures, and/or joyous laughter: Vonzell Agosto, the Anand and Christiansen familia (Ari, Rachel, Gita, and Vayu), the Au and Shimabukuro familia (Mira, Wayne, and Makoto), Anita Bergevin, Bethany Brent, Karen Bretz, Anthony Brown, Keffrelyn Brown, Lolly Carpluk, Angelina Castagno, Gary Chan, Minerva Chavez, Jian Bo Chen, Prisca Chinn and the Chinn familia, Hoewook Chung, Taína Collazo-Quiles, Júlio Diniz-Pereira, Jason Erdmann, Marni Finch, Eugene Fujimoto, Mariecris Gatlabayan, Mary Jo Gessler, Suzanne Hancock, Tommy Hancock, Richie Heard, Maureen Hogan, Jenee Jerome, Manjula Joseph, Andreas Kazamias, Kyoko Kishimoto, Thomas Ku, Kevin Kumashiro, Doug Larkin, Anpu Lau, Cindy Lau, Maggie Lee, Beth Leonard, Mike Leonard, Andrea, Mariann and Bob Litznerski, Elaine Liu, Christine Marasigan, Tori Maslow, Caitlin Montague, Heather Ann Moody, Cindy Mui, Gilbert Park, Lirio Patton, Oiyan Poon, Stace Rierson, Ricardo Kiko ← x | xi → Rosa, Victoria Rosin, Darlene St. Clair, Lilliana Patricia Saldaña, David Shih, Olga Skinner, Marian Slaughter, Lotchanna Sourivong, Brenda Spychalla, Phitsamay Sychitkokhong, True Thao, Ate Allyson Tintiango-Cubales, Kabzuag Vaj, Meng Vaj, Virginia Waddick, Sophia Ward, Adriane Williams, Gloria Williams, Maria Williams, Arthur and Maggie Yang, Gloria Grad Group, Stacey Grad Group, the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY), Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP)—particularly PEP Balboa 2001–2002, SFSU Asian Student Union, Freedom, Inc. and the Asian Freedom Project, UW-Madison EPS 200 fall 2006 and EPS FIG fall 2005, UMass Boston’s Institute for Asian American Studies (Paul Watanabe, Michael Liu, and Shauna Lo), 2009–2010 SCSU Hmong Student Organization, UWEC Hmong Student Association (shout outs to the 2014–2015, 2015–2016, 2016–2017 EBoards), UAF graduate advisees, and my extraordinarily brilliant UWEC student-faculty research team (Ameririta Chhunn, Yer Lor, Jackson Yang, and Pang Kou Yang). My graduate assistants provided much needed support. Cheyenne Braker and Kayla Van Allen tracked down citations. My amazing students—thank you for allowing me to teach and learn from you. Wayne Au, Tommy Hancock, Suzanne Hancock, Beth Leonard, Lilliana Patricia Saldaña, Mira Shimabukuro, and Mommie, Baba, Alex, and Alden Wong will always hold a very special place in my heart. They energized the research and (re)writing process for me when I needed it the most.

Most importantly, I thank my research collaborators (the young people, their parents, and HCCC staff) for taking the time to share their stories (the struggles and, more importantly, the survivals!) as well as for inspiring me each and every day to effect positive change on Mother Earth. Be roses that grow in concrete.

peace & love


An earlier version of Chapter 6 was published as N.W.A. Wong, “‘Cuz They Care About the People Who Goes There’: The Multiple Roles of a Community-Based Youth Center in Providing ‘Youth (Comm)Unity’ for Low-Income Chinese American Youth.” Urban Education, 45(5), 708–739. Copyright © 2010 by Sage Publications. Reprinted or adapted by permission.

An earlier version of Chapter 5 was published as N.W.A. Wong, “‘They See Us as Resource’: The Role of a Community-Based Youth Center in Supporting the Academic Lives of Low-Income Chinese American Youth.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 39(2), 181–204. Copyright © 2008 by the American Anthropological Association. Reprinted or adapted by permission. ← xi | xii →

An earlier version of Chapter 8 was published as N.W.A. Wong, “Broadening Support for Asian American and Pacific Islander Immigrant Families: The Role and Impact of Community-Based Organizations in Family-Community-School Partnerships.” AAPI Nexus: Policy, Practice and Community, 9(1–2), 134–142. Copyright © 2011 by the Asian American Studies Center Press. Reprinted or adapted by permission.

| xiii →



I write this foreword in dismal times for immigrants in the United States. As has been too often the case in the history of the United States, anti-immigrant rhetoric, anti-immigrant policies, and anti-immigrant violence have once again returned with disturbing potency. African, Latinx, Muslim, and Asian immigrant families in the United States are operating with increased fear of not just attacks from White supremacists, but also community raids by ICE—both of which have been emboldened through the xenophobic, anti-immigrant policies advanced by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. In the midst of this, teachers report that they have children crying in their classrooms, as these immigrant students worry about their own families and communities (Au, 2017).

I paint this dreary picture not to depress, but rather to be crystal clear about the realities facing our children of immigrant students. As Nga-Wing Anjela Wong reminds us so astutely in Opening Doors: Community Centers Connecting Working-Class Immigrant Families and Schools, between home, school, and community, children of immigrants traverse multiple worlds every day of their lives, with each world presenting both unique stresses and unique resources as they make their ways. The stories here, in the voices of the young people themselves, tell us that, if we are going to serve our children of immigrant students well, then we need to make sure that they have access to a multitude of resources—including access to flourishing networks of community-based organizations (CBOs). ← xiii | xiv →

What I find most important in Wong’s Opening Doors is that it calls us to commit to community in education in very fundamental and profound ways. For instance, Opening Doors reinforces the reality that out-of-school time is critical in the educational success of students. We have known this from decades of research showing that nonschool factors influence educational achievement far more than in-school factors (Berliner, 2013). What Wong offers us is insight into how a material, nonschool community resource, in this case the Harborview Chinatown Community Center (HCCC), concretely contributes to working class students from Chinese immigrant families to navigate the U.S. school system.

Another way that Opening Doors shows us the power of committing to community in education is through the level of community groundedness of the HCCC generally, and the Community Youth Center (CYC) program specifically. Both the HCCC and the CYC are not only geographically located in Harborview’s Chinese immigrant community, but they are also culturally and linguistically located in that community. This is a lesson in effectiveness, where culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 1995) pedagogy and curriculum is paramount to the HCCC’s success in reaching the Chinese American youth and their families who access the services there.


XX, 162
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XX, 162 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Nga-Wing Anjela Wong (Author)

Nga-Wing Anjela Wong is an activist scholar and an associate professor in the education studies department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She received her PhD in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Title: Opening Doors
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