Everything Immersion’s Given Us: Opportunity, Leadership, and Community

Issy Pagano, Managing Editor, Photo & Art

Ever since first grade I’ve been asked again and again, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” While the question may have remained the same, my answer always varied. In first grade I wanted to be a warrior princess; in third, a vet (that specialized in puppies) and, of course, in fifth, Lizzie Mcguire.

Now, as a senior, I don’t exactly plan to be a singing popstar, but I do still feel like the opportunities are endless. Minnetonka Immersion has provided an environment in which goals that feel impossible can be accomplished. From the time I was in first grade and couldn’t understand a word of my teacher’s instructions to finishing the Chinese Language A IB exam, growth is evident.

Being the first class of Chinese Immersion also meant being the pioneers of something that had never been done before. This experience means being thrown into whole new challenges you have never dealt with before and that your parents can not help you with. This ultimately created resilient students who learned to adapt. This has often led my mother to say, “Even at six years old, you were leading the way for something incredible.” This really is true – every one of us has achieved something great. Immersion made students into leaders before we even knew what it meant to be one.

While Immersion has been amazing, that does not mean it has not been challenging. Every year our curriculum was still being created, and whether it was going to be effective or not was a shot in the dark. While we learned, so did the Minnetonka administration. We grew up knowing that the future generations would have a better program, that our footsteps would provide a foundation for others and, in doing so, they would continue to better the program just as we did.

Reflecting back on this now, my fellow Immersion classmates still speak to the immense pride that comes with our resilience. In every sense, even when it did not feel like it, we were supported. Minnetonka administration took a risk on us and encouraged us to never give up.

Additionally, I do not believe there is an Immersion student who would not attest to the amazing teachers in Immersion. Immersion teachers are completely different than most teachers at our school. They continue to find new ways to take their own language and make it more accessible to us; whether that be making up hand gestures to more easily remember our vocabulary words or simply checking in with the occasional, “does this make any sense?”.

Every teacher and every student from my Immersion experience holds a special place in my heart. Immersion truly becomes a part of who you are, a portion of your identity. Whether the graduating seniors use their Immersion skills in a career field or not, the program provides far more than language education. For twelve years we have been told, “before you know it, you’ll be graduating…”. For twelve years we have been surrounded by other Immersion students, never imagining the day there is no eight AM class. For twelve years, we have struggled through vocabulary tests, grammar lessons and impossible five-word idioms. Well, Minnetonka Immersion students, the twelve years is up. We did it.