ST. LOUIS — May Wu’s career started with a simple desire: To inspire others the way her grade school teachers inspired her.
That goal led Wu to start a preschool in Taiwan, then to become a high school teacher. But after her husband’s career brought her to St. Louis, Wu became a stay-at-home mom struggling to adjust to a foreign language and culture. The support she received from her neighbors inspired her to give back by helping other Chinese immigrants. In 1998, Wu got a job at the St. Louis Chinese American News, the region’s first Chinese-language newspaper. Today, she serves as the paper’s director. (Wu’s husband, Francis Yueh, is chief editor.) We spoke with Wu about her career journey and the newspaper’s role in the community.
Your first experience leading a business was when you founded a preschool in Taiwan. How did that come about? I had a dream to be a teacher because of my teachers from elementary and middle school. After I graduated from college, I had the idea to start a preschool. But I was a college student; I didn’t have any funds. So my mom helped me, and I joined together with two college classmates. After running the preschool for one or two years, the building was torn down to build a commercial project, so we could not continue. Then I got a job offer from a high school, so I taught Chinese in high school for four years.
You moved to St. Louis in 1988. What experiences did you have adjusting to life here? When we first moved here, we only had one car, and I didn’t go to work yet because my boy was too young. One time, I walked to Schnucks to buy something. Then one lady, she came up to me and said, “It’s going to rain outside, do you want me to take you and your baby boy home?” I think maybe she saw us a few times when we walked out in the neighborhood — we were neighbors in the same apartment area. I didn’t know her, but I really appreciated her offer. And our neighbors upstairs — I think they were Italian immigrants — they were so nice. They knew we were new here. On Thanksgiving holidays, they would share their turkey with us.
Your first job here was with the St. Louis Chinese Culture Center. How did that happen? I got the job from my teaching experience, my knowledge of Chinese culture and history, and my Taiwan connection. Taiwan started the organization as a community center. They provide an activity room where people can get together, and books that people can borrow for free. I was culture center administrator for five years.
How did you get involved with the St. Louis Chinese American News? The Chinese American News was founded by our publisher, Sandy Tsai, in 1990. At that time, there was no internet, no local Chinese newspaper. The new immigrants here didn’t have any resources. So Sandy had the idea to start a paper, and the goal was to build a bridge inside our community. I met Sandy at church when I was still working in the Chinese Culture Center, and then I joined the paper in 1998.
What local needs does the newspaper fill? In the Chinese community, we don’t have information for new immigrants, or students that came here to study abroad. There’s also a language barrier for our senior people — some of the senior people, even if they can read English, have an easier time reading the Chinese newspaper. People can get community information from it, and also any information from Taiwan or China. So my work at the newspaper is kind of like my previous work in the culture center, because it’s a resource to the community.
Click here for the full interview.
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