When Thomas Fabian entered kindergarten in 2007, he was one of 43 five- and six-year-olds who would pave the way for many others. The pioneering XinXing Academy Chinese Immersion class became the first to graduate from the program on June 4, 2020.
“To be the first graduating class of the XinXing program is really cool, it's great to think that we were the start of this incredible program and I can't wait to see what happens in the future with it,” Fabian said.
Back in 2007, the creation of XinXing Academy came at the perfect time for parent Kimberly Ruthenbeck, who was searching for an immersion program for her upcoming kindergartner.
“We always wanted our kids to be global citizens and part of that would be learning another language,” Ruthenbeck said.
Hopkins was the second district in not just the state but in the nation to start a Chinese immersion program. The students, staff, and educators were true trailblazers. They went on to develop curriculum and global partnerships, infuse Chinese culture into lessons, and create culturally relevant celebrations.
“(The students) constantly had to navigate the unexpected, they had to be flexible, they had to be adaptable, they had to go with the flow and they just rose to the occasion in an amazing way,” said Molly Wieland, world language and immersion coordinator. “And I think that it really developed in them a skill set that you don’t learn from regular school.”
The entire program truly embodies Hopkins Public Schools' Vision 2031. In addition to mastering another language, students are developing confidence, becoming global citizens, learning empathy, and expanding their critical thinking skills.
One of the more unique aspects of the program is that the Chinese culture is embedded throughout the curriculum and experiences. Classes are taught by native speakers, fifth-graders learn Chinese cooking, eighth-graders travel to China for one week where they stay with a host family and attend school in Shanghai, and students perform in an annual Lunar New Year Celebration.
The future is bright and the possibilities are endless with the high proficiency of language skills that XinXing students develop. Some of the Class of 2020 graduates plan to continue their Chinese language studies in college and find a career that utilizes their skills.
“If you have a high level of proficiency in Chinese and understand the culture, that’s invaluable in communicating with people and trying to solve world problems,” Wieland said.