Johnston High School - 6501 NW 62nd Ave Johnston, IA

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Chinese school helps the community

Myles Glandorf, Staff writer

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After school hours, language classes are still held. The Iowa Chinese Languages School teaches Chinese at the high school every Sunday from 2-4 p.m. in the math and language wings.

Originally the only people that went to the school were Chinese children.

“At the very beginning when the school was funded it was (because) all of the Chinese (people) wanted their children to learn Chinese as well,” school principal Lang Luo said. “Then instead of teaching their kids at home, we started a school system and we have teachers who teach all of the kids from those Chinese families.”

Later on other people throughout the community wanted to learn Chinese as well. “That’s why we started to have the classes for the non-Chinese speaking population,” Luo said.

The school has changed because of the new interest in Chinese.

“When we started it was really to serve the needs for the first generation of Chinese children,” honorary principal Jun Wei said. “But now we are more focused on how we can meet the local community, since the school is in the local community, we want to serve the local community.”

The school is available for anybody who is interested in Chinese or the Chinese culture.

“Our mission is to help the local communities no matter (where they come from),” Wei said.

There are currently 130 students, ages ranging from four years old to adults.

“We have four classes targeting the non-Chinese speaking people, be it kids or adults,” Luo said. “We have one class for the adults and three for the non-Chinese speaking kids.” There are 15 classes in total, 11 of which that are for the kids who were raised in Chinese speaking families.

The Chinese children and the non-Chinese children are sometimes taught differently.

“Most of the Chinese kids can speak very well in Chinese so in our pre-k (classes) we’re starting to introduce writing and reading already,” Luo said. “But for targeting the non-Chinese (children) we start with conversation, (and the) main focus is teaching them how to speak.”

The characters are introduced later. The students are not required to write anything, “But you do have the chance to know the characters and what they mean,” Luo said.

For the children ICLS is organized like a regular school system. They move from different levels depending on how they progress in their class.

“After you are comfortable with a certain very introductory level of speaking Chinese you later move on to more advanced levels,” Luo said.

If a student studies and works hard at the ICLS, when they graduate they are able to take the AP Chinese exam.

The cost of the school per semester is $170. That includes the textbook.

“We are a nonprofit organization we are not trying to make money,” Wei said. “It’s more like to compensate the cost of the school, (the) classes, those expenses, cover those costs.”

All of the teachers and helpers at the ICLS are volunteers.

Junior Leon Sun volunteers at the ICLS.

“I help the kids,” Sun said. “If one of the kids needs help I’ll set them aside and try to explain it to them.”

The school has not only benefited the people that go to learn Chinese, it has also helped Sun.

“It’s given me silver chord hours,” Sun said. “Also it has given me valuable knowledge (about) working with children.”

Sun got involved with the program when he went with his mom. “My mom used to be a teacher, so I used to go with her, and was a student there.”

The school is open to anybody.
“I just encourage that all the students from Johnston High School think about Chinese as an option,” Wei said. “We really encourage and welcome each of you to come over here and hope you have a great experience.”
Learning Chinese could also be beneficial.”As they think about the future, China plays more role in the economy and in the world and knowing Chinese will probably help each student in the future in terms of learning and jobs, and in many other ways,” Wei said.
The school hopes that it can provide the community with these benefits.
“What we’re doing here is not just for fun, we also have a great mission,” Wei said. “We don’t have to be the biggest school in the nation, but we want to be the best Chinese school to serve the community.”
For more information visit: http://www.iowachineseschool.org
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