When the Valley’s first Korean language and heritage school for children opens in Mesa this weekend, 5-year-old Carson Yu will be one of its first students.
The boy is already enrolled for the lessons, which are being offered by the Phoenix-based Korean Cultural Center in Arizona.
“It’s much easier for them to learn a language at this age,” said his mother, Suzanne Swan-Yu, of Scottsdale. “They’ll also give him information, so he grows up knowing more about his Korean heritage.”
Swan-Yu’s husband is of Korean heritage. The couple adopted Carson from Korea, so it’s important he learns about his background, she said.
Her daughter, Courtney, 16, didn’t have that opportunity when she was younger, Yu said, although now the Desert Mountain High School student takes adult Korean language classes in Phoenix.
While most public school districts offer similar short lists of language courses — Spanish, German and French — private academies are popping up in the East Valley to offer something different.
In May, four Chinese-American women opened up the Chinese Art Academy in Chandler, which teaches Chinese language, painting and dance classes after school.
Korean classes will now be offered on Saturdays at Mesa Community College where, besides the language, students can learn traditional drumming, dancing and martial arts, said Michelle Kim, president and CEO of the Korean Cultural Center in Arizona.
Students will have the opportunity to perform at the annual Korean Arirang festival in March.
Children also will learn traditional Korean etiquette, Kim said, including what to say and how to behave among family during important Korean holidays.
Mesa’s Korean population has more than doubled in the past five years to about 1,200 people, according to 2005 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Kim said many of the students enrolled in the academy are of Korean heritage, and some of their parents are second-generation Korean-Americans.
“They want to hook up with their Korean heritage,” she said of the Korean-American children. “They go to American schools and grew up in that atmosphere. ... Their parents say, ‘I lost my connection, but I definitely want my children to have it.’ ”
Kim said she hopes other students from different backgrounds will come to learn about her homeland, too.
“It can help the kids become global citizens and help them accept other cultures,” she said.
If you go
What: Arizona Academy of Korean Heritage
When: 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Saturdays, beginning Feb. 17
Where: Mesa Community
College Tuition: $100, plus $25 for textbook Information:www.kccaz.net or call (602) 264-6646
Deadline: Registration ends Feb. 24