There’s a new language at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS) – Mandarin Chinese. Junior Carson Lott, who is originally from Mobile, Ala. helped introduce the school’s first-ever Mandarin Chinese class by successfully applying to the Virtual National Security Language Initiative for Youth (VNSLI-Y).
Virtual NSLI-Y is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Virtual NSLI-Y: In-School Program is a new initiative launched in Fall 2019 at several host high schools in the United States. For 10 weeks, a virtual teacher conducts beginner-level foreign language and culture classes for 2 hours per week for students who have not had the opportunity to learn the language at school or abroad.
Lott’s connection with Virtual NSLI-Y stems from his future career interests. He desires to pursue a career in public policy with a potential path to law school one day. He is passionate about international relations and has a deep love for learning about other cultures and places. From his passion, Lott identified the value of learning languages, and he desired to secure an opportunity for ASMS students to learn beyond the school’s offerings.
“I felt it was important for students at ASMS to learn a language that might not be available to us otherwise, and I also wanted to give students a chance to engage in an untraditional learning experience that could prepare us for future educational endeavors,” says Lott.
Lott collaborated with the ASMS Academic Affairs Department to submit a comprehensive application to the Virtual NSLI-Y program. ASMS was selected as a recipient for the 2019-2020 school year, and in spring of 2019, the ASMS SGA approved a policy allowing for the course to begin in fall of 2019. Virtual NSLI-Y provides ASMS with a Mandarin teacher and both the video conference and online content management platforms that students and teachers use to meet digitally. Virtual NSLI-Y also provides an honorarium to host schools to use in support of the new class.
Lott and eleven other students meet every Monday and Wednesday to learn Mandarin Chinese. Students are engaged in a unique learning environment because their professor, Dr. Shih is not located on campus during her instruction. Students video conference with Dr. Shih for their courses, and they utilize a separate online platform to submit their work for evaluation. With funding from Virtual NSLI-Y, Lott was also able to purchase calligraphy pads and pens for each student in the class.
As a next step, Lott intends to encourage the students in the course to apply for and engage in international language immersion opportunities through NSLI-Y summer or academic year programs.
“Being able to study in another country as a high schooler is also not a common educational experience. NSLI-Y offers such opportunities, and because ASMS students will have participated in the Virtual NSLI-Y program, I believe we will have a strong foundation if we are chosen for the abroad programs,” says Lott.
For Lott and the other eleven students, the virtual Mandarin Chinese class is the beginning to a globally minded education and career.