A decade ago, about 600 Chinese students attended high school in the United States. Today, there are more than 38,000. For many, it’s their first time away from home and their first time in new country. Meet one teen who’s making the transition at a school in Garland. It's the focus of the latest installment in a KERA American Graduate series called Generation One.
We feature Niuying Cao, a 10th grader who goes by Arron. She attends International Leadership of Texas, a public charter high school in Garland.
Sending your child to the U.S. for an education is not cheap. Those who come typically are from middle- and upper-class families. The students at IL Texas are paying $28,000 a year, which includes health insurance, a laptop, an iPhone and room and board.
Once they graduate from high school, many will stay in the U.S. to attend college.
“I think a lot of them see American universities as better universities to prepare their children — for future careers and goals,” says Gary Manns, director of international students for IL Texas.
Once they have that degree, Manns says many will try to land jobs in the U.S. and stay here permanently.
One in three Texas kids is either an immigrant or the child of immigrants. Over the next several weeks, KERA will explore the challenges these children face and the ways North Texas schools are trying to weave them into the American tapestry.
These kids have to learn a new language, adapt to a different culture and try to fit into a community that may not embrace newcomers.
Here are earlier installments:
Chapter 5: Helping Kids Learn English -- And Spanish, Too
North Texas schools have transformed the way they teach English – by teaching Spanish, too. At Bowie Elementary in Grand Prairie, Spanish-speaking kids are learning both languages as early as pre-kindergarten. KERA visited Bowie to learn how dual language programs work.
Kindergarten teacher Teresa Martin wants her kids to speak both Spanish and English. Reaching them in kindergarten is critical, she says, because learning two languages works best when you’re very young.
Chapter 4: How Schools Can Help Immigrant Kids
Julian Vasquez Heilig has spent years studying how schools educate immigrants. He’s a professor at California State University, Sacramento. He previously worked at the University of Texas at Austin. He spoke with KERA and shared his thoughts on what can be done to help immigrant students, high-stakes testing, and a possible breakthrough in North Texas.
Chapter 3: She Escaped Violence For A Fresh Start in Texas
The third story in the series introduces Dilcia M. Asencio Mazariegos, who left Guatemala in 2012 to get away from a violent family member. She attends Plano East Senior High School where she's enrolled in English as a Second Language classes. But she's also been juggling two jobs.
Dilcia's teachers say students like her face academic challenges such as learning English. Some come with little schooling in their home country or haven't mastered their native language.
At the same time, many of these kids have a strong work ethic, says immigration attorney Paul Zoltan. "She wants to be a productive member of society," Zoltan says.
Chapter 2: Going From Spanish (Or Urdu Or Arabic) To English
The second story in the series takes a look at how the Grapevine-Colleyville school district is responding to the dramatic demographic changes.
In recent years, the number of students learning English — they’re called English language learners — has climbed 60 percent.
The district partnered with the police department to create the Grapevine Community Outreach Center. And the district launched the Language Assessment Center over the summer. Kids who aren’t native English speakers get tested at the center and are then placed in the right language program.
Of the students learning English in Grapevine-Colleyville, most speak Spanish. But kids also speak Korean, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and Ukrainian.
“Learning a language is not easy, whether you’re 5 or whether you’re 45,” says Jodi Cox, the district’s world languages director.
Chapter 1: In A Land Of Strangers, Paving His Own Path
The first story features David Kapuku. Just two weeks after arriving from Africa, David enrolled at Conrad High School in Northeast Dallas. He started school in a new country where students speak a different language. It can be overwhelming. Now, a year and a half later, David is helping other refugee kids making the transition.
About the series
Each Tuesday through the end of the year, stories will air on KERA 90.1 FM. Explore the stories in KERA’s digital storytelling project, which features videos and aninteractive graphic showing where Texas’ foreign-born population comes from.
Generation One is part of KERA's American Graduate initiative.