Cherokee Immersion school graduates more fluent speakers

05/09/2013

Cherokee Immersion Charter School’s sixth-grade graduating class. (L to R) Front Row: Kara Hawzipta and Ethan Winn. Back Row: Dalyn Patterson, Jolie Morgan and Ashlynn Barnoskie. 

 

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —A second successful group of fluent Cherokee-speaking children are set to graduate from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School on Monday.

Ashlynn Barnoskie, Kara Hawzipta, Jolie Morgan and Ethan Winn, of Tahlequah, and Dalyn Patterson, of Stilwell, comprise the sixth-grade graduating class. The ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at The Place Where They Play gym on the Sequoyah Schools campus.

“We are making history each year with the students we produce from our school,” said Cherokee Immersion Charter School Principal Holly Davis. “We are not only saving a language that was close to becoming extinct, but we are also producing bilingual children, and research shows that bilingual children use a greater percentage of their brain. Therefore, we are producing smarter students, and there is not an industry out there that does not want more intelligent students from which to select employees.”
The Cherokee Immersion Charter School graduated 10 students in its first graduating sixth-grade class in 2012, after starting as 3-year-olds in 2002-03. Students who start in preschool are generally conversational in the Cherokee language by the third grade and graduate fluent in Cherokee, as well as read and write in the syllabary.

“I like the fact that we are learning a dying language, and I want to try and keep the language going,” Patterson said. “I want to be able to spread it around and teach people in other communities when I get older.”
Currently, the school has a staff of 25 that serve more than 140 students. Each class has a certified Cherokee-speaking teacher and assistant, and the students are immersed in the Cherokee language all day through the fourth grade, incorporating English into the classroom starting in the fifth grade.
“It means a lot to be able to read and write in Cherokee,” Hawzipta said. “One day I want to be able to teach other kids so the language will not die, and so they will be able to communicate with their elders.”
Oklahoma A+ Schools recently accepted the Cherokee Immersion Charter School into its network schools. To be a part of the network, a school must apply and be accepted. The initiative is designed to provide schools with ongoing professional development, an intricate network of support and an active research component.  
Davis said being named to the network of schools is an extreme honor and reflects the good work being done in the school. Being a member will also serve as an excellent resource for the Cherokee Immersion Charter School.

 


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