SD72 targeting students from overseas

International students help stimulate Campbell River's economy

School District 72 is doing its part to stimulate the local economy by going overseas.

For the past three years district employees have been scouring the world, looking for students interested in coming to study in Campbell River.

This September, 28 international students are expected to attend local schools and bring in $705,000.

“Each full-time international student contributes at least $30,000 to the economy,” said Jo-Anne Preston, co-ordinator of International Student Programs. “They pay for their education, they pay for their homestay, and they spend money in Campbell River. Sometimes their families will come to visit, which generates further tourism dollars.”

The international program has really grown since it began in 2008 with just four overseas students.

In 2009, the program ballooned to 21 students and in 2010 a total of 22 international students attended Campbell River schools.

This school year there were 20 overseas students who came from Taiwan, China, Germany, Austria, Korea, Switzerland, Vietnam and Latvia.

Preston said the school district has a five-year goal to attract 60 full-time equivalent international students which would generate $1.8 million.

She said Canada is a popular place for international students because the country scores high on international educational rankings and parents value the creative problem solving in Canadian schools.

Preston said students choose Campbell River because “it’s safe, it’s welcoming and it provides a true English experience.

“You’re not going to walk through the mall and hear people speaking Mandarin,” she said.

Campbell River offers three different international programs.

The Long-Term Graduation allows students to come for several years and earn a B.C. graduation certificate while the Short-Stay Programs offer study for as little as two months, to give students a taste of the Canadian lifestyle.

The Full-Year English Immersion program offers students an opportunity to attend school while experiencing the Canadian culture and improving their English.

Preston said expanding the international program will not only generate more funding for the economy but will reduce the effects of declining enrolment; generate more English as a Second Language (ESL) services for immigrant students; provide cultural opportunities for Campbell River students and their families; and fund more classroom teachers as the program grows.

Preston said this year the program supported 1.1 full time equivalent teachers in the district.

Money aside, Preston said the international program is all about opening doors for students and giving them opportunities they may not otherwise have in their home countries.

“For parents abroad who are thinking about sending their children abroad, it’s not about business, it’s about quality of life and in my opinion, there’s no better quality of life than in Campbell River,” she said. “For the students who come it’s a life-changing experience.”