CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A family is embracing traditions from China and the U.S. with the help of a language immersion school in Charlotte.
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May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
East Voyager Academy of Charlotte is a Mandarin language immersion program
The Zhao brothers attend the school because the language can help them communicate with their extended family from China
The majority of the students at East Voyage Academy of Charlotte are not Asian or Asian-American
Elliott and Ethan Zhao enrolled at East Voyager Academy of Charlotte this year where they learn English and Mandarin.
The Mandarin immersion charter school has pre-kindergarten through seventh grade.
Their father, Yan, was born in China and moved to the U.S. at age 15. He said Mandarin will give them a way to communicate with their extended family in China.
“It just gives them a way of connecting with each other beyond saying hello or goodbye,” Zhao said.
Their mother, Kathleen Richard, is American. She doesn’t speak Chinese, but wants her children to connect with the traditions and culture that are part of their family.
“I think it’s a huge part of their culture that’s really not open to them. I’m not able to teach them as much about their Chinese heritage without that portion of the language,” Richard said.
East Voyager Academy of Charlotte Principal and Chief Executive Officer Renee Mathews said the majority of their students are not Asian or Asian-American.
“They are just from families that are interested in learning languages, world languages,” Mathews said.
She said being bilingual can help them in their future careers.
“China and the United States are both economic powers in the world, and both of them are in a position where our economies are very intertwined. Our governments have to work together cooperatively on many issues,” Mathews said.
Elliott and Ethan’s parents said their sons mastering Mandarin and using it in the workplace when they’re older would be an added bonus.
However, their main goal is for them to embrace both of their cultures.
“I think it gives them an appreciation for the fact there is not one singular way of doing things or one way of growing up,” Richard said. “Our goal would be that they would be open to other people and cultures.”
East Voyager Academy has 140 students from kindergarten to seventh grade.
The school will add eighth grade next year.
No test or previous knowledge of Chinese is required for students in North Carolina to apply to join the school.