As cities undergo dramatic demographic changes, schools become important sites of conflict between the interests of established and emerging communities. This article presents a case study of Lowell, Massachusetts, where the second largest Irish community in the country resided during the 1850s, and which is now home to the second largest Cambodian community in the United States. Analysis of nineteenth-century Irish community dynamics, particularly in relation to issues of public education in Lowell, reveals the significance of religious institutions and middle-class entrepreneurs in the process of immigrant community development and highlights important relationships to ethnicity, electoral politics, and economic development. In light of the Irish example, a conceptual framework is presented to understand current dynamics of leadership, institution building, and community empowerment among Cambodians and their contemporary struggles for educational equity.



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