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Published: Friday, 3/9/2012

St. Francis expanding international program

Chinese exchange students to stay years

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo's Chinese connection will grow stronger this fall, this time through the city's Catholic schools.

St. Francis de Sales High School will add an international program next academic year, with students from China enrolling to eventually earn a diploma from the school. The students at St. Francis won't be the school's first from abroad; a handful from Spain, South Korea, and Finland already attend. But the new initiative would be a much more structured international program compared to the school's existing study-abroad setup.

The school plans to hire an English as a Second Language teacher for the students, along with other resources. Rick Michalak, director of admissions, said the school hopes to recruit students who plan to stay at St. Francis for several years, not just a semester or two as most exchange students do. The program is part of a diocesanwide push to add international students.

"They want to get the diploma from us," Mr. Michalak said, "and they feel it's their best shot -- and so do we -- to get accepted into one of the top universities."

St. Francis plans to enroll about a half-dozen Chinese students in the fall and add a class each year. Mr. Michalak said the school doesn't want its international program to grow beyond 28 students, and the school has no plans to build dormitories for its international students.

He said the Chinese students St. Francis is recruiting are looking to immerse themselves in U.S. culture and language and will likely live with host families. St. Francis will charge the international students about double what Toledo students pay. Mr. Michalak said the increased tuition covers added faculty, finder fees to their recruitment company, and reimbursement of host families.

St. Francis students currently pay between $9,200 and $9,800, depending on various fees and payment options.

Schools across the diocese have 50 international students in either junior or senior high classes, largely from South Korea or China, said Tony Mass, diocese high school consultant. Those numbers are set to grow, with several schools increasing their recruitment efforts. Leaders of schools in Fostoria and Tiffin are either in China now, or recently returned, he said.

"The value of an American high school Catholic education is something that is desired by people even beyond our borders," Mr. Mass said.

Meanwhile, the schools' native Toledo students get a multicultural education. While the programs are rather modest in scope, they should also help to somewhat offset student population drops caused by a contracting parish system.

St. Francis also sees the program as a "way to show off what we have," Mr. Michalak said. The only diocesan high school without an academy, the international program helps highlight the school's highly rated math and science programs, he said.

The schools use recruitment firms to find likely candidates. Mr. Michalak said he uses Skype to interview the students.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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