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Chinese Immersion Class of 2024 Celebrates 13 Years of Learning Together

Pile of medals that say Achievement in Chinese Immersion
High school graduates on a stage with red curtain behind them

When the Chinese immersion program in Saint Paul Public Schools began in 2011, it was a single kindergarten class at Benjamin E. Mays International Magnet School. The families took a chance on a new program, and many of them did not speak any Chinese at home. At first, the kids didn't either. Bobbie Johnson, one of the program's first staff members and now the principal of Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy, remembers that first school year like it was yesterday.

class photo of a kindergarten class at Benjamin E Mays IB World School

"It was not easy at the beginning because we used Chinese to teach them starting on day one," Johnson recalls. "A TV station came to film them and asked one student what the teacher was teaching. The student yawned and told her she had no clue. After winter break, the students started to understand everything and they started to fly in their learning. We invited the same journalist back for another story. They were so impressed how fast these students had improved."

Fast forward to 2024, and this group of kindergartners is getting ready to graduate from high school. A dozen students from the 2011-12 kindergarten class have stayed in the program together, transferring from Ben Mays to Hamline Elementary and then onto Highland Park Middle and High School, where they continued their Chinese immersion experience. They have been joined by students from other Chinese immersion schools over the years, with 20 seniors in this year's graduating class.

At a special ceremony held in the Highland Park High School auditorium on May 23, the seniors were honored by their Chinese teachers, Ms. Miao and Dr. Chan, and the program's junior class. In addition to receiving awards for completing the Chinese immersion program, several students were recognized for additional accomplishments, including 16 students who earned their Minnesota Bilingual Seal.

Senior Sophia Paske, who is attending college at Duke Kunshan University in China next year, shared remarks in Chinese and English with her classmates and their families at the ceremony. "I am so proud of all of you. I've had so many wonderful memories with you all over the years," she said. "I hope each of you will find ways to use Chinese in the future. Knowing a foreign language is a very important and useful skill. I am looking forward to celebrating everyone's future successes."

Group of students and staff at Jie Ming school event

Ms. Miao and Dr. Chan also shared their pride and hopes for this special group of graduates. "We all know that Chinese isn't the easiest to learn. You have studied Chinese for 13 years, which requires great perseverance and determination. Yet each of you has managed to stick with it all this time and complete the Chinese immersion program," Miao said. "As you head to college, I encourage you to continue your Chinese studies and use it to help serve society and your country. I know and believe that each of you will have a bright future, and I wish you all the greatest success."

Congratulations to the 2024 Chinese immersion graduates: Elizabeth Alene, Ava Arrendondo, Finnegan Black, Brouke Brookins, Alec Buchanan, Arija Greenseid, Whitney Hall, Rowan Matter, Ivy Meredith, Asa Meyer, Phaedra Neitzel, Sophia Paske, Lia Rivard, Lisbeth Roller, Julia Sikorski Roehsner, Ellery Spector, Ada Tierney, Ella Tjaden, Theresa Williams, Lovesa Xiong

Chinese Immersion Program Continues to Grow

Jie Ming continues to attract more families every year who are looking for a Chinese immersion educational experience for their children starting in kindergarten. The K-5 magnet school moved to its own building in the Highland Park neighborhood in 2018 after outgrowing its space at Hamline Elementary. In 2023, the building completed a multiyear renovation project and now features an expanded kitchen and cafeteria, new learning spaces, inclusive bathrooms, and a new playground in the works.

Students who graduate from Jie Ming can continue the Chinese immersion experience at Highland Park Middle School and High Park Senior High School

More Photos of the Chinese Immersion Class of 2024