Chinese School helps bridge cultures
Apr. 18, 2007
Ding dong! As a loud bell rings through the halls of the Hope Chinese School,
students hustle into their classrooms.
This sound means it's time for the next class to start.
HCS was founded in 1995 by Chinese-Americans who felt a need to get their
families together and share their common language and history. These
second-generation Chinese Americans felt homesick for Chinese culture, so
creating HCS was an effort not to lose their Chinese values. "The Chinese
culture is so wonderful, so full of many good things, and we wanted a place for
everyone to meet," said Sue Gao, consultant of teaching affairs.
Wei Kinnie, vice principal and teacher, shares Gao's sentiment for the Chinese
culture. Every Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m., Wei's two children, Patrick and
Betty Wei, meet their friends and spend a weekend afternoon learning Chinese at
Mesa Community College.
"It's a chance (for Chinese-American children) to be with other kids of the same
background, who speak the same language and look just like them," Gao said.
Gao's 10-year-old daughter, Betty Yu, is enrolled in an intermediate Chinese
language class. Betty told her mother that she is learning the Chinese language
to go back to China and work as a translator or open her own restaurant.
"We hope our students grow up with multicultural backgrounds, including Chinese
and American," Wei Kinnie said. "(This knowledge should) help them face
opportunities and challenges in life . . . and to grow and serve the community."
HCS is a non-profit, non-political organization that offers instruction in
simplified Chinese. There are seven Chinese-language schools in the Valley, yet
only two of them practice the simplified version over the more-difficult
traditional Chinese characters.
Their mission is to spread Chinese culture and history, and provide to students
the opportunity to express their knowledge of Chinese culture through their
Betty Yu's teacher, Shen Meijing, said she finds teaching Chinese to children
much easier than coaching English-speaking adults.
"With little children, they absorb the Chinese language and accept the
characters much faster," Shen said.
The biggest challenge for HCS has been building awareness within their
"We want to keep Chinese culture going, but I don't know how long it will last,"
Principal Mary Shuai said.
Insufficient funding has also prohibited HCS from advancing its goals and
expanding as an organization.
Unable to pay for what Shen said would be "higher education," HCS is forced
every semester to scramble to keep their volunteer teachers as part of the
faculty. The school provides numerous classes in Chinese language, literature
and awareness of Chinese culture and history.
At present, there are 400 students enrolled representing more than 300 families
from the greater Phoenix area. Classes range from conversational Chinese, to SAT
Chinese prep, AP Chinese prep, math, creative writing, wushu, hip-hop, jazz,
calligraphy, chess and tai chi.
The curriculum now includes a bilingual class, which Wei said was an attempt to
reach out to more students, possibly those from a non-Chinese background as well
as second- and third-generation Chinese Americans.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian population in Maricopa County
grew by nearly 50 percent from 2000 through 2005. Mesa had an estimated
98,159 Asian residents in 2005.
Shuai said she felt that the legacy of the Chinese culture should be inherited
and spread from her generation to the next.
"We are aware of the impact with enhancing and enriching our children's lives,"
Shuai said. "We would like to have more American people know more about Chinese
culture and history, so that our young generations support each other, hold onto
each other and make a great contribution to our beautiful country."