PASCO, Wash. - It takes hard work, dedication and lots of practice to master a second language. But for some young Pasco students enrolled in a unique program, becoming bilingual is just another day in the classroom.
This week, 15 students at Pasco's McLoughlin Middle School graduated from an intensive dual-language program they have been involved in since kindergarten. In fact, they are the first group of students in southeastern Washington to complete this program.
"Kinder through 4th grade, we'd have half the day in Spanish, half in English. Then when we got to middle school, we got an hour of Spanish and the rest English," said program graduate Eros Torres.
Some have Spanish-speaking parents at home and others are only exposed to the language while at school. But over the past 9 years, the teachers say all the kids can speak Spanish as if it was their native language.
"I can talk to all my friends that have been speaking Spanish their whole lives," said program graduate Ryan Calveard.
"They are pioneers of this program, and they are living proof that it actually works," said Program Facilitator Omar Escalera.
Program graduate Ryan Calveard says the hard work he started at such a young age, will pay off in the future.
"It'll help me find a better job, and get into college a lot easier. It puts me above everyone else," he said.
More parents are taking notice, and there's now a long waiting list to get into the program that's breaking down language barriers and opening up doors.
"I think its one of the greatest opportunities that we can give our kids because with the way the world is going right now, its a benefit to them to know a second language," said parent Darin Splatstoesser.
The teachers also say that these kids earned higher scores on their standardized tests than their single-language peers.