Central Catholic special needs teacher Ryan Titkemeier, left, and foreign exchange student Apai 'Joe' Aursoontorn, 18, of Thailand go over their scores while bowling at Southwyck Lanes.
When Central Catholic High School learned it would have eight students from foreign countries on its rolls this fall, it put together a three-week program to introduce the exchange students to Toledo.
Two students from Thailand - Apai "Joe" Aursoontorn and Patrapee "Pat" Pongtana - arrived first and already have been to a Mud Hens game, Maumee Bay State Park, the Toledo Zoo, and more mundane venues such as Kroger and McDonald's. The idea is to get them comfortable with their new home and give them some practice speaking English.
Special needs teacher Ryan Titkemeier, who has been working with the students in the Beyond Our Walls program, said he starts each day asking the young men what they did after school, what they ate for dinner, what words they've come across that they don't understand.
"I would say the language barrier is pretty minimal. I haven't encountered anything yet where we're so far off," Mr. Titkemeier said. "They're pretty good. They make my job easy."
Joe, 18, said he studied English in his native Thailand for about five years, while Pat, 15, attended an international school in Thailand for three years where classes were taught in English. Cousins, the boys are living in Toledo with their uncle, Sompong "Bob" Pongtana.
When school begins Aug. 23, Joe will enter Central Catholic's two-year international baccalaureate diploma program, while Pat plans to enter the program after completing his sophomore year at Central.
Patrapee 'Pat' Pongtana, 15, of Thailand bowls at Southwyck Lanes as he tours the local area to familiarize himself with it before school starts.
Marie Arter, director of curriculum, said the international baccalaureate program - the only one in northwest Ohio and the only one in the state at a Catholic school - is attracting students from all over.
Twelve seniors are expected to be the program's first graduates in May. A group of 18 juniors is to get started this fall, she said.
Some, though not all, of the eight exchange students coming this year from China, Thailand, Iran, France, and Italy were drawn to Central Catholic because of the program, she said.
"Kids around the world will search that out because they know if they get that [international baccalaureate] diploma, they can go home with that," Ms. Arter said. "Sometimes diplomas from the United States aren't recognized in their home countries."
Students in the baccalaureate program take advanced courses, complete an independent research project, take a critical-thinking "Theory of Knowledge" course, and complete 150 hours of creativity, action, and service activities.
While students such as Pat and Joe said they wanted to come to school in the United States to improve their English and their chances of getting into a university here, Ms. Arter said their presence will be significant to their fellow students, faculty, and families at Central Catholic too.
"It's going to bring a lot into their lives, but it's going to bring a lot into the Central Catholic community too," she said. "We need to be world citizens."
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