FOREST HILLS, Mich. (WOOD) - On Wednesday night, the first Spanish-speaking graduating class at Forest Hills Northern donned their robes and caps.
On his final day of high school, Diego Ruiz could easily speak Spanish. He's one of the first 12 students of the Forest Hills Spanish immersion program to graduate.
"I can hold a conversation with Spanish-speaking people. I can read a book all day long. It's just I did have complications with grammar," said Ruiz.
Complications that proved costly on some placement tests. Students said that when taking tests, they fell short in grammar and cultural awareness sections.
"There would be chunks of different grammar on the tests and different cultural events on the test, and we never really learned either aspect of those because we were so focused on just nailing vocabulary," said Kelsey Vaneyl-Godin, another Spanish immersion student.
Forest Hills Director of Immersion Candy Wawro said immersion students learn the language a bit differently.
"They have this rich repertoire and vocab," said Wawro. "With immersion, you're immersed in the language and you kind of pick up the grammar later as you get more sophisticated with the language."
Wawro said the district tweaked the high school curriculum this past year to compensate for where students were lacking the tests.
The program redistributed some teachers and worked on training those teachers to focus more on "survival skills" -- the vocabulary and grammar to function in a Spanish-speaking community.
"If you were going to go to Spain or a Spanish-speaking country, could you find a job, read a newspaper, order off a menu," Wawro explained.
"I definitely feel like a guinea pig. I think my whole class does," said Ruiz. "I definitely feel like we're the testing of the program."
Rolling with the changes and a new-found stress in grammar, Ruiz said that overall, he's happy with the program.
"I don't regret it at all," he said.
He's going to use it at his next stop as he heads to Madrid for two years for school.
Future classes at Forest Hills will continue to take those added grammar lessons.
Twenty U.S. communities have been chosen as the first partners in a national initiative aimed at increasing the ranks of college graduates.
A contracted Grand Rapids Public Schools cafeteria worker who admitted to paying two fourth-graders to beat up a classmate has bonded out of jail.
A man who did not arrive at work in Muskegon County on Monday was found out of state Wednesday.