RENSSELAER, N.Y.—Spanish, French, German, even Latin, are the foreign language options we're used to seeing for high school students.
But Tech Valley High School in Rensselaer is offering Mandarin, the most widely spoken form of Chinese.
Mandarin is part of the high school's core curriculum.
Sophia Hsia takes attendance in her tenth grade mandarin class Thursday afternoon, a class that meets three times every week.
Hsia came to the United States from China 15 years ago, speaking very little English.
Now fluent, she is teaching her native language to Tech Valley students.
“Even if they decide to not go into anything that has to do with Chinese, it's just a way for them to get to know another language and culture,” says Hsia. “That goes a long way in the workplace.”
“A lot of our business partners will routinely say to us, we need workers who can work on teams with global understanding,” adds principal Dan Liebert.
Liebert says many students at Tech Valley high school are interested in “STEM” careers, careers in science, technology, engineering and math, students like senior Benjamin Rice, who went to China this summer.
“It really helped me practice not only new words, but how I speak,” says Rice.
Mandarin is apart of the core curriculum for ninth and tenth grade and becomes an elective during junior year.
But students like Rice and others see beyond high school, taking advantage of the Mandarin classes with the future in mind.
“I believe a lot of businesses find it valuable to have workers who can communicate with workers from other countries,” says Rice.
“It could be the difference between you and someone else, competing for the same job,” adds student Libby Cass.
“Yes, it is about the acquisition of Mandarin Chinese, but that's a window into cultural understanding and global awareness,” says Liebert.
Hsia says by graduation, her students are at the level of intermediate to mastery of the language and also have a diploma crediting them with taking an advanced Chinese regents exam.