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Students at HHS Continue Their Foreign Language Skills After Graduation

Two years ago, three students from Higley High School won a national scholarship to spend their summer in China and South Korea, focusing on their foreign language skills. Two years later, they graduated with different paths, but all say that taking Mandarin has changed their lives.

Ashley Nichols, Class of 2021, won the NSLI scholarship for the second time, allowing her to study in Taiwan for a year before continuing her academic journey at ASU. She took four years of Mandarin at Sossaman Middle School (SMS) and Higley High School (HHS).

“Ms. Panna Leatherby helped me become interested in foreign languages and made learning Mandarin really fun,” Nichols said.

Nichols added that her high school opportunities in Mandarin, such as Startalk and NSLI, were “life-changing events.” Nichols was also admitted to NYU Shanghai, but decided to accept the full federal scholarship to study in Taiwan at Tamkang University and continue her ASU studies under the presidential scholarship.

Dane Shillingburg, Class of 2021, took four years of Mandarin and received multiple college offers from Rice, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and UC-Berkeley. He said in his senior year review, “before Mandarin class, I was solely relying on myself and extracurricular activities to build my high school portfolio for my college application, but winning college and state-level competitions in Mandarin definitely helped me to get offers from those top universities.” He will be double majoring in economics and South Korean at UCLA.

Kevan Beckstead, Class of 2020, took five years of Mandarin. Beckstead was called to serve a church mission in Taipei, Taiwan, this coming year. His classmates, Dallin Oliver and Joshua Transtrum (both four-year Mandarin students) were called on the Taiwan mission as well.

SMS and HHS offer Mandarin as a foreign language elective class for students in 7-12 grade. Ms. Leatherby, a native speaker, is the Mandarin Chinese teacher for both schools. She believes that students can benefit and grow in language proficiency in the length of the study and provide them life-changing opportunities.

Dane Shillingburg and Mrs. Panna LeatherbyKevan Beckstead visiting HHS before his mission call to Taiwan.Ms. Leatherby with Ashley Nichols at HHS Graduation