Learning In Style

This episode is dedicated to the works of Sr Agnes Foley, CSJ and her journey with Learning in Style.

Pa Ying:
I am a first generation born Hmong American who recently graduated with my Bachelor in Biology. After the graduation ceremony, my grandmother told us she wanted to be invited to all our future graduation ceremony. She said, everytime we graduate, she is graduating with us. She may not have gone through the schooling, but being in the presence of a graduation ceremony was enough to keep her going. My grandmother did not have the chance for a good education for she was a girl and her family did not have enough money to continue sending her to school.

When war broke out, my grandmother gave up all hopes of returning to the classroom, but her journey in school would not end there. For one of my grandmother’s happiest moment was stepping into her adult classroom in Duluth, Minnesota, where she and several other Hmong elders were taught English and the necessary knowledge to pass the citizenship exam. When my sister and I became of age to go to pre-school, my grandmother would walk us up the hill to the community center where all three of us went to school. Her to learn english and my sister and I to begin a long journey of schooling.

As of 2016, there is roughly 43 million immigrants living in the United States. These immigrants come from all walks of life in hopes of a better livelihood. Most of the time, they are arriving without basic knowledge of English and/or the system. As a result of this, many organizations are available to teach these individuals English and basic skills that will help them navigate life in the US.

Learning in Style is an adult school that teaches english, math, basic computer skills, and citizenship courses to immigrants and refugees. The organization was founded in 1994 by Sr Agnes Foley. It began in St. Stephen’s Parish in South Minneapolis and has now relocated to Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To date, Learning in Style has taught over 5,000 students from over 85 countries. They have expanded from 4 to 20 full time staff and are now serving at least 200 students per academic session.

“Everyday I come into (LIS), I walk into a different world. I mean you open this door and people are here from all over the world, happy and working.” -Sr Agnes Foley

Learning in Style was founded by Sr Agnes Foley. Sr Agnes Foley is a first generation immigrant, whose parents came from Ireland to escape poverty. She grew up in the St. Paul-Frogtown area of Minnesota where there was a big population of Polish, German, and Irish immigrants. Having attended Catholic Schools in her early years and inspired by the sisters’ warmth in hospitality for others, Sr Agnes joined the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet at 18 years old.

After 23 years with Learning in Style, Sr Agnes Foley has retired as the Director of the organization in 2017. However, Sr Agnes has stated that she will not be going far from the program and will remain with Learning In Style as the finance holder.

“In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.” - Phil Collins


Coverage of Sr Agnes’ retirement:


About Curve Riders

Curve Riders is a short narrative podcast of women who didn't make the history books. Produced by Pa Ying Vang; the series presents achievements and cultural impacts of women religious. Inspired by SisterStory's coverage "Sisters of Influence" on pinterest the podcast aims to present these stories anew with an emphasis on storytelling through writing, sound design, and music. The podcast was created by Alexa Harnagel who produced it in 2015 with subsequent production also handled by EJ La Valle and Maakwe Cumanzala.