ST. CLOUD -- Five local seniors are making history in the St. Cloud Area School District.

Isaiah Weekes, Thomas Otto, Grace Leapaldt, Elizabeth Weitzel, and Phoenix Ackerman are all currently seniors at Apollo High School and will be the first students to graduate from the Chinese Immersion program that started back in 2007.

Now fluent in Mandarin, Leapaldt and the rest of the students say they are planning on continuing in college.

I definitely either want to major or minor in Chinese and then pair it with communications or business so I can do a job where I'm still using the Chinese.

The Chinese Immersion program started with 17 kids at Madison Elementary School and has grown to over 200. The district also offers a Spanish Immersion program that begins at Clearview Elementary School.

The five students started the program in either kindergarten or first grade, and say one of the most memorable experiences was taking a trip to China, made possible by a partnership with the Confucius Institute at St. Cloud State University.

We were in Beijing for a week, and then we took a train to Chongqing and we stayed with host families and in the dorm rooms for a week, and we just went to all the tourist sites, like we went to the Great Wall and a lot of museums.

The programs are open to anyone in the district. Students learn all the same material as their non-immersion peers, just in Mandarin or Spanish. Enrollment opens in January, and you can learn more about the programs by visiting the link below:

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