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Keeping Language Alive: Immersion School Graduates More Speakers

The Cherokee Immersion Charter School graduated its third group of Cherokee speakers on Tuesday, May 13.

The Cherokee Immersion Charter School graduated its third group of Cherokee speakers on Tuesday, May 13.

The school, which is operated by the Cherokee Nation, held its sixth-grade graduation Tuesday night in the Sequoyah High School gym in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

The graduating students have been taught the importance of preserving the Cherokee language as part of their cultural identity. Students speak only Cherokee while they learn grade level state standard curriculum and also learn to read and write the 86-character Cherokee syllabary.

“We’re making history every day with these children, since there are very few programs out there we can compare to in terms of bilingual education and preservation of a native language,” Cherokee Immersion Charter School Principal Holly Davis said. “These students are doing something very unique so that our next generation will carry on our tradition and language.”

The sixth-grade graduates include Liam McAlpin, Alexis Kelley, Hondo Kirk, Sinihele Rhoades and Daylon Dunn, of Tahlequah, and Solomon Winn, of Briggs.

“Now I can talk to most of the elders, and they’re really happy when I talk to them in Cherokee,” said Rhoades. “It’s good for them to know that people are still trying to learn the language and keep it alive.”

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Kelley said she shares what she learns with her family.

“My mom is always asking me to teach her, and I think it’ll be fun to teach others, too,” she said.

The immersion school also graduated 10 kindergarten students in an earlier ceremony on Tuesday. Those students will start the first grade at the immersion school this fall while the sixth-grade class takes courses on the Sequoyah High campus.

Cherokee Nation

Kindergarten graduates pictured are: Luke Duncan, Chet Patterson, Alyssa Dawes, Bryce Girty, Kallie Dougherty, Lawson Morgan, Keri Jones, Elias Bluebird, Timothy Dunn and Alayna Paden.

The Cherokee Immersion Charter School is part of Sequoyah Schools. Lead teachers must be state certified to teach, and all teachers must be fluent Cherokee speakers. The school teaches preschool ages to sixth grade on its campus and oversees the learning of seventh- and eighth-graders in the program at Sequoyah High School. The first class of sixth-graders to ever graduate from the school are now in the eighth grade.

For more information on the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, call 918-207-4900.