WALLA WALLA — DeSales Catholic High School is welcoming three Chinese students this fall as part of an outreach effort almost two years in the making.
The new Walla Walla Catholic Schools International Student Program will draw teens from China to experience their high school years at DeSales.
Program coordinator Nancy Metro traveled to China in March to meet with potential parents and students. The school is working with Boston-based firm The Cambridge Institute of International Education to shape its international program.
Metro said most students will come to DeSales and stay for the full four years, starting in the ninth grade, with the goal of also attending college in the U.S.
The three students who have committed to date are expected to arrive in Walla Walla Aug. 19. The program could draw up to five international students this year, and add up to three students each year over the next three years.
Additionally, two current Whitman students who are from China will serve as mentors to the DeSales students. A student ambassador program is in the works over the summer, Metro said.
Kathy Ruthven, DeSales student counselor, said the idea for an extended international program began to take shape in 2007, when an exchange student from Korea requested to stay beyond one year. DeSales has hosted international students in the past, but for shorter amounts of time.
“We’d have them a year, and then we’d never see them again,” Metro said.
In the process of extending the student’s stay, school leaders began to learn the process and potential benefits of having international students stay for a longer time. The longer commitment also allows students to more fully embrace western culture. DeSales students would not be traveling abroad, as often occurs in exchange programs, but would get the benefit of learning about the students cultures by being classmates.
“This is not an exchange program, but a long term commitment to these children,” Metro said.
The Catholic school system is also looking for families to serve as hosts, starting with one-year commitments. The financial compensation for qualifying families is about $10,000 a year, to primarily cover the cost of room and board for students, said Catholic Schools Principal John Lesko.
Qualified families will have to pass a thorough screening process that would include interviews, home visits to ensure adequate living accommodations and background checks.
“It’s a pretty detailed process,” Lesko said.
DeSales has a student body population of about 100 students, and there could be between 12 and 15 Chinese students here each year under the program in the future.
Metro said the goal is to keep the number of exchange students low, so they are more likely to connect with all classmates rather than each other.
For more information about becoming a potential host family for the Catholic Schools International Outreach Program, contact the office at 525-3030.
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8317.