[KHTS] – Starting as a small, family-oriented school to support a growing Mandarin-speaking community, the SCV Chinese School now teaches the language to hundreds of Santa Clarita Valley families.
“When we started, most of the students were Chinese families with (Chinese) heritage,” said Jinghong Li, 53, of Santa Clarita. “Now, it’s more mainstream, students with families who recognize the benefits of learning this language and see its future importance.”
Li, who’s the school’s executive director and founding principal, is an engineer by trade who earned a master’s degree at the University of Virginia, came to the Santa Clarita Valley more than 20 years ago to work with 3D printing, after teaching at the University of Dayton.
Li saw the need in his own family as well as others, he said, when he opened the school five years ago.
“We started our thinking with a single target, our kids — I wanted them to learn Chinese,” Li said. “Once we came on and started, a lot of people recognized the value. We recognize the value, as well, to not just targeting the traditional Chinese families.”
Initially a small operation, the school has grown from a handful of students that could have been accommodated by a one-room schoolhouse to more than 600 K-8 students, about 20 high school students and 80 weekend enrollments.
“Since (2009), we’ve gone through a lot of process to make our program more professional,” Li said, discussing the school’s growth. It now operates at 28141 Kelly Johnson Parkway in Santa Clarita.
Part of that has included a six-year accreditation by Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the longest attainable, and approval from the College Board, which certifies Advanced Placement classes.
Students are able to learn the language by taking the instruction in their spare time on the weekend, and they’re also able to gain credit through the William S Hart Union High School District for their language requirement, Li said. There’s also a partnership with the Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences, which offers courses on AEALAS’s Agua Dulce campus.
The courses offered are intended to keep the cost low, Li said, because the language is requires a significant time investment.
“Learning the language is a long process,” Li said, “we don’t want it to be a financial burden. If you want to quit it’s because you gave up, not because of the cost.”
The cost of the courses work out to about $6 per hour for students, but that’s not Li’s concern, he said. He didn’t start the school as a profit center, nor is it meant to be a source of income — its only intention is to spread Mandarin.
“We also have a different approach because learning the language is not easy,” he said, noting the program also is intended to be fun and educational, to try to keep children interested in the challenge of learning Chinese. “The teachers work here for the dedication, for their love of the language.”