CHAMBLEE, Ga. — For almost 40 years, the Atlanta Chinese School in Chamblee has taught Chinese language classes. Most of the students were children from families who wanted to preserve a part of their origins.
"We started with a group of parents. They wanted their children to have a place to learn the language to learn the culture and continue with all the good stuff," Ellen Chiang told 11Alive's Karys Belger.
Chiang was once the principal of the Chinese School. The position is currently held by Nancy Tai. Chiang and Tai explained that over time, the school began to offer more than language classes.
"We offer the cultural programs in addition to the Mandarin Chinese languages and we have about 100 students now. Now, our demographics include the third generation Taiwanese and anyone without a Chinese background who is interested in learning Chinese language and cultures," Tai said.
There are more than a dozen Chinese Schools in Atlanta with a similar purpose. Classes are often on weekends and students attend during their standard K-12 education years.
Tai said the students are often reluctant at first. Over the years, the attitudes change.
"The kids, they come to school, usually, they are forced to come by their parents to learn a new language. Over time they make some friends at the school," she said.
It's a sentiment Chiang shares. After teaching for some time at the Chinese School prior to her time as principal, she said the appreciation from her students often comes when they are older.
"I used to teach the high school classes and the kids they would say, oh gosh, now I understand," Chiang said.