Global learning grows and gives
A unique sister city program in a Michigan lake community offers multiple diplomas to Chinese and American high school juniors while generating millions of dollars in revenue for the district.
The International Program that Fosters a Global Learning Environment and Increases Revenue was implemented in 2005 when Lake Shore Public Schools in Saint Clair Shores started a middle school exchange program with the Haidian Foreign Language Shi Yan School in Beijing.
“When we go to Hei Wei, we see an American flag and a Chinese flag flying outside the school—and in a communist country, it’s pretty neat to see,” says Superintendent Chris Loria.
The first trips between the two countries lasted two weeks. Lake Shore, which serves more than 3,400 students in three elementary, one middle and one high school, also sent students to Spain and Germany.
Worldly lessons, smart revenue
In 2010, Chinese juniors started attending Lake Shore High School for a full school year.
The juniors take a combined Chinese-American curriculum, including AP courses, honors classes and the ACT test.
At first, the district rented apartments for the Chinese students and their chaperones in Saint Clair Shores. But after leaders assessed the costs, they created the Taylor International School and Dormitory in an unused building that had housed a daycare center.
It was renovated in 2011 to include dorm rooms with bunk beds to accommodate the now-66 Chinese students. It also has a cafeteria and two classrooms where students can work on their Chinese curriculum in the evening and on weekends.
The Chinese students, who pay annual tuition that the district did not disclose, are normally at their modest boarding schools in their homeland, so they’re impressed with the plush mattresses and carpeted rooms of the dorms, Loria says. A 20-year agreement has been signed to expand the program.
At the end of the junior year, the students return to China and all students finish their senior year at home. If they earn enough credits and take the right courses, they receive a diploma from China and from the U.S. “They want to go to an American university,” Loria says. “They know the top 30.”
Over the past five years, the program has generated appproximately $5.5 million in revenue that funds field trips, tutoring, lunch, maintenance and utilities at the Taylor school, and transportation from the dorm to the high school.
The funding also helped pay for four language classes to K5 students. And some went toward returning a portion of the 5 percent wage cut that all staff took several years ago, Loria says.
After some initial uneasiness among community members about the new students moving in, Loria says they now “love” the foreign students who volunteer, rake leaves, and spend money at local stores and shopping centers. Loria concludes, “We’ve become more diverse.”