ELMHURST – For any teenager, the transition to high school can be tough. For international students, add on culture shock and a language barrier between peers and teachers, and the stress can easily become overwhelming.
IC Catholic Prep is looking to help these students with a new partnership with China Education and Research Network (CERNET) Education and the Greater Chicago International Academy in Oak Park.
Alice Wang, the director of student affairs at CERNET Education, said the network is a China-based agency that acts as a “middleman” for parents and students interested in studying abroad. The network provides programs and hosts orientations for families and students and helps parents keep in frequent communication with their children while they're away from home.
The Greater Chicago International Academy acts as a bridge for the network and partnered American schools in the Chicago area, Assistant Principal Stephanie Wang-Taillon said. The academy offers housing for Chinese international students, as well as transportation to and from school, English classes and extracurricular activities. The dorm-like atmosphere also includes mentors and advisers for students.
Wang-Taillon said in a way, the academy acts as a “parent” for these students, especially since the adjustment does take time.
IC Catholic Prep students Molly Zhang, 16, and Amy Zhang, 15, are examples of the kinds of students who will benefit from the partnership. They said they were afraid to speak English in class and to other students because they did not know the language all that well and were afraid of being laughed at.
The two teens said even though they did not come through the new partnership, they found ways to adjust. With the help of after-school programs and IC’s teachers, they were able to become more comfortable.
“It gets better every day,” Molly said.
IC Catholic Prep is just one of five Christian schools in the Chicago area that have formed a relationship with the academy. Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst also followed the same model.
Principal Pamela Levar and Director of Guidance Jean Field said they are both excited by the collaboration because it provides a more structured environment, which may be something that is missing when students stay with a host family.