9/24/2017 (丁酉年[鸡] 农历二零一七年八月初五 星期日)
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Chinese School History

Since the founding of the Chinese School of Olympia in 1981 by the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship, our school has survived many difficulties and some fundamental change of our community. Although there has been a sizable Chinese-American community at this area as early 1850s, the community was not large enough to support a Chinese community school until the late 1970's massive immigration of Indo-Chinese refugees. Among the refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were many ethnic Chinese. Their indomitable self-pride and great courage took them to brave the angry waves of the Pacific Ocean to come to our shore. Their dedication to the education legacy of their culture inspired them to start a Chinese community school where there was none before.

In 1981, Indo-Chinese refugees of Chinese ethnic origin, in cooperation with Chinese American who were here, found the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship. The founding President was Mr. Guo. Steven Wang was the founding Vice-president. After World War II, as a young man, Steven Wang left Qingning at East Guangdong of China to start a new life at Vietnam. Then in late 1970s, he fled Vietnam's oppressive persecution and eventually settled here in 1979. Steven Wang was a refugee twice in his lifetimes but he was successful each time. Local Chinese American leaders William and Toy Kay played a decisive role to help the Indo-Chinese refugees to form the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship, the community organization behind the Chinese School of Olympia. Because of the lack of employment opportunity here, most of the Indo-Chinese refugees have since moved away. Refugee families who settled here and other Chinese American families kept this school open for the benefit of the community children.

In 1981, Steve Xa, the first Principal, and the Yao sisters (Yao Hui- Bi and Yao Hui-luan) started and operated a one-room Chinese School to continue the Chinese language education for the children of the Indo- Chinese refugees. St. Johns Episcopal Church at Olympia graciously lent their Sunday school facilities for the Chinese School site. The students of this one-room Chinese School later formed the backbone of the new and much larger Chinese School.

In 1984, Pei-chang Hahn, an engineer with WA/DOT, moved here from Richland of East Washington and volunteered to be the Principal. Pei-chang Hahn, a native of Northeast China, and his wife were experienced teachers and administrators. Pei-chang Hahn, a devoted Christian and a long- time Chinese educator, persuaded many families who were from Taiwan to join force to reorganize this school to serve the entire Chinese American community. To help galvanize support from Mandarin speaking community members, Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship launched the Chinese School Board to operate the Chinese School of Olympia. James Tsao, a librarian with the Washington [state] Library, chaired the Chinese School Board for many years. To lower the cost of school operation, Pei-chang Hahn arranged for low cost and nearly free Chinese language textbooks from Taiwan. Mynt Lwin, the chief bridge engineer with WA/DOT, and his wife Juliet Lwin were strong supporters and organizers of the Chinese School curriculum. Mynt Lwin, an immigrant from Burma and a graduate from the University of Rangoon, inspired many engineers in this area to become teachers or administrators of this community school. In 1985, Alexander Mar, an engineer with Ebasco Engineering and Construction, moved from Pennsylvania to work at the nuclear power plant construction project at Satsop, Washington', and he joined the school staff as the first vice- principal. Mr. Hahn served as principal for more than four years to lay a strong foundation for this school. Subsequent principals and community leaders have continued Mr. Hahn's legacy.

Pei-chang Hahn influenced not only the future of Chinese School of Olympia. He also contributed greatly to the Chinese community schools of the Puget Sound Region. Chinese School of Olympia became one of the founding members of the Northwest Chinese School Association. In 1986, Northwest Chinese School Association organized the first Chinese School Summer Camp for the students of the Chinese community schools. Chinese School of Olympia, has participated in many academic events organized by the Northwest Chinese School Association.

During the time when Chinese School of Olympia used the Sunday school facilities of St. Johns Episcopal Church at Olympia, Chinese School conducted classes three hours a week on Sunday afternoon. The first two hours were language study. The third hour was for cultural programs. Mynt Lwin and Juliet Lwin, a teacher from Hong Kong, taught music and culinary art. Yao, Shin-ping, a local artist who was trained in Taiwan, taught calligraphy and painting. Gloria Chen, a professional dancer from Taiwan taught Chinese classical dances. Gloria Chen's folk dancer: of Chinese School of Olympia were popular performers in Puget hound. Mrs. Hahn taught Chinese folk arts. Other community members taught Chinese history and other facets of Chinese culture. This three-hour curriculum structure remained in force until the Chinese School had to move to another site due to major re-construction of St. Johns Church.

This school has one unusual distinction among Chinese community schools in the United [state]s. Back in 1985 when Pei-chang Hahn was Principal of this Chinese School and Alexander Mar was its vice- principal, we organized a task force to identify roadblocks that discouraged our youngsters to attend Chinese School. One problem we identified was that many children, at high school age, felt that they received no high school benefit to attend Chinese School. The other problem was that, at that time, while there were SAT II tests for five European languages ranging from French, Spanish, to Hebrew, there was no recognition of Asian languages. The College Board, a national non-profit organization based at East Coast, operates the SAT and SAT II tests. The Chinese School Community Task Force decided to work on these problems. Peter Lin, a community member and parent of three students in the Chinese School, researched the laws of the [state] of Washington. To our surprise, according to WAC 180-50-300 Equivalency Course of study - Credit for learning experiences conducted away from school or by persons not employed by the school district's, our student has the right to apply for high school credit to attend our Chinese School. We made arrangement with local high schools to accept the transcript of our high school age students. We believe that Chinese School of Olympia is the first Chinese community school in the nation to gain this benefit for the students. Our pioneering effort has inspired many other Chinese community schools in Washington as well as in other [state]s to gain similar benefit for their high school age students.

The other problem, the Collage Board's lack of recognition of the East Asian languages, was significantly more difficult and took considerably more time and effort to resolve. Fortunately, we were not the only community which was unhappy with the SAT II tests. We joined the effort of many other Asian community groups to push for change. The first vice-principal Alexander Mar coordinated the local effort to change the College Board's mind. Thanks to the untiring effort of many community leaders and educators all over the country, eventually College Board agreed. We were especially grateful for the assistance of Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien of UC Berkeley whose voice decisively persuaded the College Board to accommodate the diversity reality of the American citizenship. Now, there are SAT II tests for East Asian languages of Japanese, Chinese (both the simplified and complex character fonts), and Korean. This effort took over ten years.

During the 1990-1991 academic year when Alexander Mar was Principal, Chinese School of Olympia started the adult conversational language class program. We launched this class program i because we recognized the need of many families whose parents had either none or little Chinese language skill. This adult language program has become a popular program for non- Chinese American families. Many families joined the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship simply because of this adult language program!

Many people may not realize it now. At one time, Olympia Chinese Fellowship had a community TV program. In 1991, Lin Crowley, who was VP of Community Affairs of OACF initiated the weekly Chinese Community Program on TCTV-- Thurston Community TV. This TV program continued for almost four years until we lost continuous support from a commercial TV company in Seattle. As the number of students increase, Chinese School of Olympia moved from one school site and than on to another school site. Under the leadership of Principal Jim Wei, an engineer with DOT, and then Principal Lin Crowley & Sheue- Lan Shyu, Chinese School of Olympia evolved to meet the changing need of the community. The early students who had some prior Chinese language education made way for a new generation of students who were born or grown up in this country.

Originally, most Chinese immigrants were from Hong Kong, Taiwan, lndo-china, and Taishen area of Guangdong, China. Indo-Chinese immigrants and immigrants from Taiwan accounted for the majority of the members of Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship. Since the earlier 90's, more and more Chinese immigrated from China mainland. In addition, the immigration wave from Taiwan and Hong Kong ebbed because of the significant economic progress there. These different characteristics of Chinese immigration changed the composition of the Chinese American in this community. By the late 1990s, new immigrant families from the People's Republic of China approached being the majority in this Chinese community.

Chinese School of Olympia, under the leadership of Principal Sheue-Lan Shu and then Principal Guorong Liu, reacted to this change by adding classes that used textbooks based on the pinyin system of the People's Republic of China. Today, more than half of the classes uses pinyin system and simplified fonts. However, our school retains classes that emphasize the traditional Chinese fonts.

New immigration from the People's Republic of China to Puget Sound Area bought along a large number of talented musicians, dancers, and artist who provide a new source of Chinese cultural program for the students of this community. Several families of the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship began to send their children to attend music and dance classes at Seattle. Many current students and former students of Olympia Area Chinese School are members of Washington Chinese Youth Orchestra and Seattle Chinese Orchestra. Mei-Li Chan, former Vice-principal, coordinated our students to participate in the dance and music program at Seattle. In 2002, Warren Chang, Director of Washington Chinese Youth Orchestra, appointed Regina Mar to set up an Olympia branch. Today, this team of music and dance students has provided cultural program support at many places in Olympia Area.

Members of the Olympia Chinese Christian Church have played a decisive role in the Chinese School of Olympia. Many new immigrants from the People's Republic of China are members of this church. In the year of 2000, Hui-Bi Yao, former President of Olymria Area Chinese Fellowship, recognized the importance of the growing immigrant community from the People's Republic of China.

Hui-Bi Yao persuaded Shelton Cai, leader of this church to encourage their members to actively participate in the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship and in the Chinese School of Olympia. Members of Olympia Chinese Christian Church infuse fresh idea and energy into our Chinese School.

Chinese School of Olympia is unique in one unusual aspect. The Chinese community here is the smallest in the Puget Sound Area and certainly much smaller than those of major cities else where in this country. Recent survey indicates that Olympia Area has about 200 Chinese American families with at least one member an ethnic Chinese. Not all Chinese American families are member of the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship. Yet, nearly 50 percent of eligible children in the community attend this Chinese School. This high percentage of attendance is unique among all Chinese schools in the Pacific Northwest. Fewer than 5 percent of eligible Chinese American children in Tacoma or Seattle attend their Chinese community schools. We do not know of any other Chinese American community with comparable success of Chinese school attendance. We have a great community spirit here.

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