When he was little, Shane Mang, the son of Cambodian immigrants, spoke some Khmer, the Cambodian language, around his home.
Now a sixth grader at Crocker Farm School, Shane is reminded of many basic words in that language while attending an after-school program that also offers an understanding of Cambodia’s history and culture.
“It’s fun and I really like it,” Shane said of being part of the weekly Cambodian Affinity Group.
Led by Seiha Krouch and his wife, Thyda Ty, the program continues the Amherst public schools’ longstanding efforts to make sure those of Cambodian descent, as well as other interested students, can get some knowledge of the Southeast Asian country.
The district’s history with refugees from then war-torn Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge began in 1982, with people continuing to arrive from refugee camps in Thailand into the mid-1990s.
Krouch, a teenager at the time of his arrival in Amherst in 1984, is now among the elders who provide guidance to a second generation of Cambodian-Americans settled in the region.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, the 90-minute program began with playing a pick-up game of basketball in the gym before the children headed to a classroom to discuss their recent viewing of a portion of “First They Killed My Father.” That film, directed by actress Angelina Jolie, is based on the autobiography of Luong Ung, who recounted her experience with the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields.