Chinese student exchange benefits entire school, principal says

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From Beijing to Burbank, schools in the southwest suburbs have become a home away from home for some Chinese students. (WLS)

From Beijing to Burbank, schools in the southwest suburbs have become a home away from home for some Chinese students pursuing the American dream.

Wendan Tan enjoys the personal attention she receives in her AP chemistry class at Queen Of Peace High School.

"We only have three persons, but my English is not good, so sometimes I have problems and I ask teachers, and they will stop question. And they'll wait for me until I figure out," Tan said.

Allen Li is a senior at St. Laurence High School.

"I like it because in America I can express my thinking better than in China. In China, you can only study, study science, study language but you cannot express your ideas," Li said.

Both students are enrolled through a non-profit called the Greater Chicago International Academy. The total care program provides dorm-like living arrangements, academic support and full-time adult supervision.

"It's a program flexible for the students, who want to come here and study for high school. Also, the parent far away from here, they feel comfortable because we take care of everything for them," Jian Sun, president of Greater Chicago International Academy, said.

School administrators say the partnership is an easy sell that benefits all students. It also offers a much-needed financial infusion. Each international student pays full tuition and fees. The goal is to enroll 200 students from China in the Chicago area by 2017, delivering roughly $2.8 million annually to participating high schools.

"Bringing these students in not only has that cultural, integration and collaborative impact, but more students allow us to do more things and have greater programs for our students in general," Hedi Belkaoui, principal at Queen of Peace High School, said.

Other participating schools include Guerin College Prep High School in River Grove and I

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