Photo taken on Oct. 26, 2018 shows the dormitory building of Wisconsin International Academy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the United States. (Xinhua/Wang Ping)
by Xu Jing, Xia Lin, Miao Zhuang
CHICAGO, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Rachel Zhu just returned from shopping. She bought some decorations and would decorate the cafeteria for the upcoming Halloween celebration party.
Rachel, a Beijing native, came to the United States when she was a 9th grader. Now she is a junior at a local high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She goes to school at day and comes back to the Wisconsin International Academy after school, a place she and some other 150 international students studying at U.S. high schools called "home".
Sun Jianguo has lived in the United States for 26 years. Whenever there were children of relatives or friends in China coming to the United States to study, he would take care of them. One day, he decided to extend the care to more Chinese students, giving them one more choice other than boarding schools or boarding families.
The total-care Wisconsin International Academy came into operation in 2012. As a partner in the founding of the academy, Sun is particular in details. Within the courtyard of the academy, besides the dorms, there are cafeteria, vendors and a small shop, a gym, and laundry rooms. Rented school buses send the 150-plus students to seven Milwaukee-area private high schools in the morning and get them back after school.
The academy also has dozens of local teachers taking care of the students and helping them in study.
Matthew Gibson had engaged in public education in Wisconsin for 40 years before he became the superintendent of the academy in 2012. He has his way of how to make education successful.
"We need to accept the students, give them a sense of belonging here," Gibson said, adding that the most important thing is to give the students "small success experiences, they get confidence from the small success experience, and then they want more of that and more of that".
"We'll give them a lot of encouragement, a lot support when they first start out here so that they can gain confidence. And as soon as they gained confidence there, they're often running just like American students would be."
Gibson admitted that things that make students successful in China are different from that in the Untied States. "But everything they bring with them from China helps. It's just a different application here. It's a different culture, different rules and so they have to get used to that."
"When they're done with four years here, they haven't lost anything from who they were and what they gained in China, but they've gained everything of having the American high school education and really being fluent in English and really being confident of who they are now as a citizen of both countries," Gibson told Xinhua proudly.
Years' operation has brought the academy some prestige. The academy is receiving students from other countries besides China. A family in the Philippines has sent three daughters to the academy for total care.
Since 2012, the academy has safely sent some 200 international students to American universities. Rachel will soon apply for universities. She told Xinhua that she wants to study journalism at university.
David Chen from Shanghai is a 10th grader at present. He is quiet but has idea of his own. He aims at Cornell University's computer science program, and is working hard for this aim.
"I dare more to express myself, have a stronger sense of time, and pay more attention to my interest (here in U.S.)," Chen told Xinhua. "I can even cook now."
Both Zhu and Chen found that the Americans' knowledge of China is limited. "They are full of curiosity about China. But talking of China, the teacher showed the class the black-and-white photos of my parent's age. I was there showing them what China is now," Zhu said proudly.
Chen also talked of his correction of teachers when they were wrong about China at class. Both of them are happy that they have acted as a bridge in helping their classmates and teachers better understand China.
The 2017 statistics provided by the Institute of International Education show that by Autumn 2016, there were 82,000 international students studying at U.S. high schools, accounting for 0.5 percent of the total U.S. students at high schools. The percentage may look small, but it had grown 12 percentage points since 2013, and more than three-fold since 2004. And China was the major source of the growth.
Statistics show that starting from 2013, the percentage of Chinese students studying at U.S. high schools had increased by 48 percentage points to be 42 percent.
Sun is happy that he can do something to help these students and their families. "I am confident of the project, and will provide the total-care service to more families," he told Xinhua.