Shery Yang is a first generation American and the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college. As of Jan. 8, she’s also the first Hmong chief of staff in the California State Capitol.
The appointment was made by California senator Melissa Hurtado, who represents the 14th Senate District. The region includes cities in Fresno, which The Sacramento Bee reports is home to America’s second-largest Hmong population.
“Sen. Hurtado has made her intentions clear: giving a voice to underrepresented communities,” Yang said in a statement. “That’s why joining Sen. Hurtado’s team as the first Hmong chief of staff in the State Capitol is not only an opportunity to provide a fresh perspective but also to demonstrate that further diverse representation is needed in California.”
According to Yang, the southern Central Valley has the state’s highest rate of poverty and is one of the most diverse regions in California.
Hurtado told the Sacramento Bee that in her district of nearly one million residents, needs of community residents are frequently overlooked.
“The challenges we face and the solutions we need often don’t align with the rest of California — making us a very unique region,” Hurtado said.
According to a statement, Yang will be responsible for directing, coordinating and supervising the daily and long term operations of Hurtado’s office.
Yang’s family escaped the Secret War in Laos and settled in California as refugees in the 80s. She was raised in Yuba and Fresno County and holds 13 years of experience in politics, policy and communications.
After the announcement was made, Yang took to social media to share the news. On Facebook, she wrote that she had received direct responses from other Hmong people who said they’d been searching for connection around the Capitol.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a journey,” Yang added on Twitter. “So proud of this team and how much we’ve all accomplished. Thank you to @Senator_Hurtado for always standing up for underserved communities.”
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