By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Kokomo-Center Schools announced Monday its plan to open a second downtown dormitory for international students studying at Kokomo High School.
The building at 201 E. Superior St. will be renovated and opened next year as a residence hall that caters to female international students, officials said.
The building will have room for 15 girls from around the world.
The project is welcome news to administrators in the district who see the value of fostering diversity in schools.
“As Kokomo High School expands international student programs, students at KHS will continue to foster relationships and learn from them,” said Mike Sargent, who oversees the international exchange programs in the district. “Students interacting and developing positive relationships with students around the world is an important skill necessary to being competitive in our global economy.”
Monday’s announcement comes less than a year after the district opened its first dorm — which was open only to boys.
Thirteen teens from nine countries moved into the facility starting in August.
Since that time, officials have been considering a second dorm for girls.
Kokomo superintendent Jeff Hauswald said the demand is there.
“We’ve already tested the waters,” Hauswald said. “We have some girls staying with families this year, but that market is very saturated.”
The superintendent said he’s received mail and emails from families around the world who have seen or heard about the dorm for boys. All of them wanted to know if there would ever be a similar opportunity for girls.
He’s seen interest in girls from Chile and England.
Hauswald said he expects there will be no issues in finding 15 students who want to study here.
Marketing will be much easier now that the first dorm has been open for a semester, he said.
“We have kids telling their friends about it,” Hauswald said.
The exchange program in Kokomo is enticing to many international families, said Dave Barnes, director of communications for the district.
The schools here have what these families are looking for, he said.
“One of the questions they ask is if they can graduate from Kokomo High School,” Barnes said.
The answer to that is “yes.”
This year, the district started accepting students on F-1 visas. Students with these visas can study in the United States for two years and graduate from an American high school.
They also want to know what kind of courses the schools offer and how many Advanced Placement college classes there are.
Barnes said there are now 17 Advanced Placement classes at the high school. The district added four more this year because of the exchange students.
“There has been interest in this new dorm ... big time,” Barnes said.
This dorm, like the first one, is being funded by the international students who pay tuition and room fees. It’s actually providing additional funds for the district, Hauswald said.
The superintendent said there should be twice as many exchange students studying at Kokomo High School next year. He said he expects to have at least 30 international students every year now.
The new facility will contribute to the corporation’s vision of accepting global exchanges, said Heidi Gutwein, who oversees the international residence halls.
“Our KHS students have the opportunity to live, grow and promote a peaceful world through acceptance and understanding of each other’s cultures,” she said.
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