Special to the Recorder
Ponte Vedra High School students competed in the 15th annual Florida State Chinese Competition on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 in Orlando, one of the few public high schools in the state to do so.
At the competition, students competed as individuals and a team against other students studying Mandarin Chinese across the state. PVHS is the only high school is St. Johns country to offer Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language credit.
Yan Li, Chinese language teacher at PVHS and vice president of the Florida Chinese Teachers Association, prepared her students for the competition. Li is the only Chinese teacher in St. Johns County and teaches at Ponte Vedra High School and Landrum Middle School. She has led the students to participate in the Florida State Chinese Competition for the last eight years.
“I love taking students every year,” Li said. “This kind of thing really engages the students and the parents to learn more about the culture.”
The students practiced each week for months preceding the event. Meeting each Thursday, students memorized speeches and countless facts about Chinese culture. Students prepared for a reading, listening, cultural and speaking assessment related to their particular level for that year. Additionally, a chosen team of four students competed against the other schools in an annual jeopardy game, specifically assessing the students on their cultural knowledge.
“Chinese competition is the highlight of my year,” said PVHS student Callista Campbell. “The jeopardy game is surprisingly intense, but everyone knows we are here just having fun at the end of the day!”
Working alongside her students, Li allows them to grow in their knowledge through the friendly competition. The students are also led by the two co-captains of the Chinese Competition team, Hope Daughtry and Maggie Dykstra. As student leaders and second-year attendees of the competition, Daughtry and Dykstra helped their 15 peers get familiar with the content and prospective events.
“It is amazing how much the program has grown since I started studying Chinese freshman year,” Daughtry said. “I love how the competition gets not only my peers excited about studying Chinese, but it also shows my parents how much I love it. Engaging my school by cheering us on and engaging the community by just letting people know how much passion we have is truly inspiring.”
Dyskstra added, “It is really a lot of fun, getting together and having a friendly competition. I loved seeing the new faces and making so many friends. It’s cool to have that shared study and bonding over it with students from all across the state.”
The students’ parents also love how the competition engages their students in their studies.
“My daughter is the coolest nerd ever for being involved in this,” said Rachel Daughtry, Hope’s mother. “It is so cool to see so many amazing kids joining together and having fun. It’s crazy to think they all learn this awesome language.”
Photo provided by Hope Daughtry