Every year, hundreds of local teenagers apply to be a student at Fresno’s San Joaquin Memorial High School. But now, the private Catholic school is seeing an influx of students from outside the Central Valley, and actually from outside the country.
Students from China want to study at U.S. high schools with the hopes of increasing their chances of getting into a prestigious college. To meet the demand, SMJ has opened up the only boarding facility in the Central Valley to house the international students.
Three years ago, the school opened up a boarding academy – the only one in the Central Valley
SJM has always had an international program, but the students from other countries would stay with local host families. So three years ago, the school opened up a boarding academy – the only one in the Central Valley. Now, international students can live on campus. SJM tells us there’s a great monetary benefit for the school, as well as a unique experience for all their students.
Among the sea of students at SJM, 10 percent of them are from a different country. A total of 26 of those teenagers live in the school’s on-campus boarding facility. School administrators gave KSEE24 a tour of where this unique group of students live.
Vanessa Gonzalez, SJM Director of Marketing And Admissions, giving a tour of the boarding facility
“The kids usually will pick out their own bedding, but you will find that each room has two beds. Each student will have their own drawers and then they each have their own desk,” said Vanessa Gonzalez, SJM Director of Marketing and Admissions.
Amber Hou is a senior. She’s one of SJM’s international students from China.
“I really want to have the American high school experience here because, I know now, I know it’s way different than what I had experienced in China,” Hou said.
SJM markets to various countries around the world to fill their international student program quota. However, the Diocese of Fresno won’t let them surpass 10 percent of the whole student population.
SJM vice principal Anthony Goston said, “Most of our students are from China, but we try to market everywhere to get a diverse group of students and sometimes that can be difficult.”
The school tries to get students from other parts of Asia, South America, and Europe. But, it’s been mainly Chinese students who have been the ones able to afford the annual $51,000 price tag.
Goston said international students aren’t offered student aid. They pay the full price which is $15,500 for tuition and $35,500 to live in the boarding academy.
“And so obviously, it helps out with your budget and things that you can do. But that wasn’t the primary reason, the primary reason was diversity, culture – being unique,” Goston said.
SJM’s boarding academy is the only one in the Central Valley. The students get a private chef, premium living quarters and 24-hour security.
“I really enjoy that part of my life – being around with my Asian friends, American friends, and other international students has been really a fun experience,” Hou said.