Alaska students complete 13-year Russian language program

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A group of students in Alaska has become the first class to complete a Russian language immersion program.

The group of 17 students started the program in kindergarten and stuck with it through their senior year at Western Anchorage High School, Alaska Public Media reported (http://bit.ly/2qEFnwg ) Thursday.

The program was designed for American students specifically so they could learn Russian from a young age.

"We already had high school programs," teacher Elena Farkas said. "We already had middle school programs. The only component that was missing was elementary component. And when the Anchorage School District applied for the FLAP grant, we received it. And we started. From all of the states, we're the only ones who received that grant."

Immersion classes in the district have filled up each year since the program started, Farkas said.

The grant had allowed for a Russian language lottery system to be set up. Parents enter their kids into the lottery and those selected go through the 13-year program.

Wesley Piscoya was the first name picked from the lottery more than a decade ago. He said his classmates in the program have become more than just people he sees each day.

"It's very much a family," Piscoya said. "I know I can come to these guys with any problems that I might have with any part of my life. If I have homework problems or social problems."