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Community Hero: Meesoon Han helps bridge divide between Alabama, Korea – Montgomery Advertiser

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Her son was upset. More than that, he was confused.
He explained that he got into a fight with a classmate in his adopted hometown of Montgomery after being called a slur, one that’s usually directed at people of Chinese descent. “I’m Korean,” he told his mom.
More than 20 years later, Meesoon Han smiles as she describes her son’s confusion that day as a way to illustrate how much things have changed in central Alabama, an area that’s now booming with Korean businesses, culture and people. Kimchi lines grocery shelves, and once-closed storefronts have reopened under Korean signs in a town where Hyundai and its suppliers employ thousands.
Census data shows that from 2010 to 2020, Montgomery’s Asian population jumped 56.4% even as the city as a whole lost residents, and the percentage of Asian residents in the nearby community of Pike Road nearly quintupled in the same time.
Han used to be a computer science teacher. But she’s spent the past decade leading a nonprofit she co-founded to build bridges between the communities here as the area continues to evolve. That work has helped create some of the region’s only Korean language courses in public schools, sparked a STEM teacher exchange partnership with South Korea, helped immigrant families overcome educational obstacles and more.
More:Koreatown: Finding ‘a second home’ in Montgomery
Her nonprofit has brought Korean art, food and music events here, from Hanji craft workshops to K-pop concerts. It has taken local teens to Korea to study, runs a youth leadership program and manages a summer language camp that teaches dozens of kids Korean each year, paving the way for local jobs while offering college credit.
“Our job is to bridge. I’m not changing you. You keep who you are. Your identity is important, as much as my identity is important,” said Han, the executive director of the Alabama-Korea Education & Economic Partnership.
For a decade of building those bridges, Han has been named the Montgomery Advertiser Community Hero for January. She’s still eager to talk about how much work remains, but she’s just as eager to talk about the passion of others who have built and supported that work over the years, since the days when she was just a concerned parent.
“She came to me with it and wanted me to be somebody to spearhead it,” said A-KEEP co-founder and state Sen. Gerald Dial, who helped the organization form and strengthen its international ties. “She just works her butt off, and it’s so important. … It’s so important to our kids.”
The superintendent of Alabama schools routinely serves on a lot of boards, usually working through a liaison. But current Superintendent Eric Mackey said he’s taken a personal interest in his role with A-KEEP after forming a relationship with Han. “Meesoon is a very persistent person,” Mackey said. “… She wants to get in and explain it, and I understand now why.”
With A-KEEP’s help, the state has formed partnerships with a half dozen Korean universities to bolster the ranks of teachers here. Meanwhile, they’ve rolled out Korean language classes in Montgomery and Pike Road schools – some of the first classes of their kind in the state.
It’s a slow process, one that takes a lot of work and a lot of understanding on opposite sides of the globe.
Hyewon Na admits she was nervous at first after what she heard about Montgomery students.
The South Korean college student had spent her time in lockdown watching documentaries about Korean language teachers who were making a difference in urban areas of America. They showed the impact on students’ behavior and mental state. In the end, she decided to travel to Montgomery and teach similar classes at Floyd Middle and Bear Exploration Center through A-KEEP.
Before her first day, people in the community warned her to expect rude kids in public schools here.
What she found was the opposite. The kids waiting for her at Floyd sat upright and attentive, to the point that she had to loosen them up. “I don’t want them to be too polite,” Na laughed. Once the barriers fell, the questions started. “They were very curious about Korea.” Before long, students were asking for Korean classes as an elective.
A group of excited elementary school students at Bear presented a different challenge but still charmed their teacher. “They’re really adorable and they’re hard (workers). They wrote everything, and they wrote the pronunciation,” she said.
A-KEEP offers similar classes in grades 2-12 at Pike Road Schools, and has offered classes for grades 5-7 at LEAD Academy. All of those partnerships – and courses – are new to the area, and to the state.
“We’re basically creating our own Korean curriculum,” said Brittany Payne, A-KEEP’s K-12 outreach coordinator. “I think there’s now this need for students to learn this critical language. It can offer government jobs for them, but it can also offer jobs here locally with Korean companies or even with the American businesses here that deal with Korean companies.”
The federal government agrees. A-KEEP’s StarTalk Korean language summer camp has been funded by an NSA grant since 2018 after Korean language learning was designated as critical to global peace by the Department of Defense. The nonprofit worked with the National Foreign Language Center to develop the program and motivate students to learn. Now, it’s an accredited course that counts toward college transcripts.
In schools, they expanded wherever they could, including working with physical education and art teachers to teach their regular curriculum in Korean.
Other aspects of A-KEEP are geared to helping immigrant families adjust. Irene Do leads the nonprofit’s developmental disability project, which offers interpretation and translation to help families meet special social and educational needs.
It’s a problem that Do said can create a “double barrier” for Korean families, and one that’s gotten harder to overcome during the pandemic.
“Another challenge on this project is opening the mind of Korean families,” Do said. “Culturally Korean people are shy and less active. Moreover, immigrant Korean families and families with members with disability already experienced bad situations and treatment from the society, so many people already closed their minds.”
One problem seemed simple to solve, at least to Han.
Alabama has a need for more STEM teachers. In Korea, where birth rates are falling and schools are closing, STEM teachers need work. “It took two years to convince both sides there’s a shortage on (one) side, and there’s a surplus on the other side,” Han said. “They could not see there is a solution on the other side.”
Now, another bridge is being built. The state Department of Education is working to create a pathway for South Korean teachers to enter Alabama classrooms, while A-KEEP and Mackey’s office sign memorandums of understanding with the Korean Ministry of Education. This month, 23 potential teachers from South Korea are coming to Alabama for a month of shadowing teachers and visiting classrooms in Montgomery Public Schools and Pike Road.
It’s a way of replacing rumors with reality.
From the archives:Biscuits become Montgomery Kimchi to honor Korean heritage
“They have heard these horrible stories, how American students misbehave in the classroom,” Han said. “We are all human beings, and the lessons are the lessons no matter where they are. Let them experience in their own way, is it good or bad? Can you adapt in this different environment? That’s what we’re working on.”
Han said they still need host families who are willing to share their homes with the potential teachers for a month. They could stay in a hotel, but that gives them less insight into life and culture in Alabama. “It’s just sharing ordinary life,” she said. “… That’s how we connect to one another.”
That connection is key to the area’s future in more ways than one, Mackey said.
Whether it’s manufacturing, agriculture or timber, he said Alabama businesses are now global, and growing up in a more diverse cultural environment gives kids here the skills they need to succeed, and to help each other succeed.
“Living in Montgomery, I have three sons from the teens to the 20s, and all three of them have had very close friends who were Koreans, whose parents were first-generation (immigrants),” Mackey said. “They were not tied directly to Hyundai but tied to the Korean community moving here around Hyundai.
“… I’ve seen that personally that it’s been really good for my children, to have that interaction with somebody from a completely different culture and background, and to learn in the end we’re all human. We’re all after the same things. We’re all trying to work together. I think we need that in Alabama.”
You can see more at akeep.org.
The 12-month Community Heroes Montgomery, sponsored by Beasley Allen Law Firm, will profile one person every month this year.
The 12 categories the Montgomery Advertiser will focus on: educator, health, business leader, military, youth, law enforcement, fire/EMT, nonprofit/community service, religious leader, senior volunteer, entertainment (arts/music) and athletics (such as a coach).
To nominate someone for Community Heroes Montgomery, email communityheroes@gannett.com. Please specify which category you are nominating for and your contact information.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brad Harper at bharper1@gannett.com.

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Carrots Have These 8 Amazing, Surprising Health Benefits

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Initially, the vegetable originated in the geological area and the Asian United States, and it was initially only available in purple and yellow hues. Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene, a natural mineral introduced by the body to provide sustenance, and they are high in fibre.

Carrots, which are crunchy, orange, and delicious, provide a variety of benefits to our health, pores, skin, and hair. These don’t appear to be particularly tasty, but they are loaded with numerous important nutrients, for example, beta-carotene, cell reinforcements, potassium, fibre, sustenance K, and so on.

Carrots are cultivated to promote eye health, lower dangerous LDL cholesterol, and aid in weight loss. Let’s put it to the test and find out why carrots are so good for you!

The following are twelve effective edges you might get from carrots:

1. Supports gadget

Most importantly, carrots contain a few phytochemicals that are well-known for their cancer-causing properties. Carotenoids and carotenoids are present in more than one of these associations. Overall, compounds create resistance and activate specific proteins that prevent the growth of most tumor cells. An investigation reveals on a screen that carrot juice can also fight leukemia.

2. Advances Glowing Skin

Investigate tips that stop outcome, and vegetables well off in those composites will finish pores and pores and skin ground and work with people’s appearances, thus making them more noteworthy young.

3. Fortifies Bones

Carrots are high in vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting agents. Vitamins B6 and K, potassium, phosphorous, and other minerals contribute to bone health, a more durable, and help with mental performance. Aside from selling the body to free extreme annihilation, cancer prevention agents keep an eye on the casing in the course of dangerous microbes, infections, and diseases. Physical cell digestion is managed by the ophthalmic component. Carotenoids have been linked to improved bone health.

4. Advances Male physiological circumstance (ED)

These fruitfulness meals may increase the number of sperm cells and their motility. According to research, this is a direct result of the fake carotenoids found in carrots, which are responsible for the vegetable’s orange color. However, it is still unknown whether carrots can improve sperm enjoyment and motility. Carrots are being tried to improve food for male physiological conditions and erectile dysfunction. Cenforce FM and Cenforce D can be used to treat impotency.

5. Keeps From Cancer and Stroke

Carrots have an unusual endowment in that they are loaded down with anti-cancer resources that will depress the cells’ blast. Essentially, studies have discovered that carrots can reduce the risk of a variety of diseases, including colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

6. Further develops the natural framework Health

Carrots contain a significant amount of dietary fibre, which plays an important role in supporting healthy stomach function. Fibre expands your stool, allowing it to pass more easily through the stomach-related plot and preventing stoppage.

7. Assists with managing polygenic affliction and basic sign

Carrots are high in fibre, which promotes cardiovascular health by lowering LDL cholesterol levels in veins and blood vessels. Calcium is absorbed through the frame of carrots, resulting in low but dangerous cholesterol levels.

Carrots have an unbalanced fibre content. An investigation found that advanced fibre consumption improves aldohexose digestion in people with the polygenic disorder. Following a healthy, well-balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Inconsistencies in glucose digestion may require a high level to combat aerophilic strain, and this is frequently where the inhibitor nutrients dilettanti ophthalmic thing axerophthol fats-solvent sustenance may also benefit.

According to one review, juice provided a 5 wrinkle inside the beat fundamental sign. The supplements in carrot juice, with fibre, K, nitrates, and vitamin C, have all been obtained to help this final product.

8. Advances Healthy Heart

To begin with, each cancer prevention agent is beneficial to your coronary heart. Furthermore, at 0.33, they should contain fibre, which can help you stay in shape and lower your chances of having a heart attack.

9. Forestalls devolution

Edges that are hostile to ophthalmic detail ensure the floor of the eye and provide a sharp inventiveness and perception. Taking juice will help to delay many eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and visual impairment. Overall, carrots contain lutein, which is an inhibitor that protects the eye from obliterating light.

10. Works on urinary organ and Liver perform

Carrots contain glutathione. Cell reinforcement has been shown to be effective in treating liver disease caused by aerophilic strains. The greens are high in plant flavonoids and beta-carotene, both of which stimulate and develop your popular liver component. Carrots contain carotenoid, which can help fight liver problems.

11. Palatable Anti-Aging

Along with carrots on your regular food, you will appreciate limiting the way you get more seasoned. Furthermore, beta-carotene functions as an inhibitor that advances cell harm, which happens as a result of the casing’s normal digestion.

12. Advances Weight Loss

Uncooked Carrots are 88% water when raw or ebb and flow. A regular carrot has the lowest difficulty level of 25 energy. Taking everything into consideration, including carrots in your diet is a wise way to fuel yourself while collecting calories.

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