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President's Perspective - November 2017

This past month I was in China for an extended stay. The first part of my trip was to further investigate a wonderful opportunity for Saint John’s Catholic Prep. A private educational group in China has asked us to assist them with the establishment of their first American-based international high school. They are asking us to train the principal and teachers in American high school education. They want to use our curriculum, policies, and procedures. The school will be located on 13 acres next to a national park in a lovely area of western Shanghai. Currently, the educational group of investors is spending $10.5 million to convert several existing resort buildings into the high school. When it is finished it  will accommodate 300 students. The proposal includes transferring twenty 11th and 12th graders to Saint John’s  to allow them to finish their high school in America. If we conclude this opportunity it will provide our students and faculty with a unique opportunity for an exchange experience as well as summer visits to China.

While I was preparing to return, I learned that Michael Schultz had trouble securing a visa for a planned recruitment trip. So I stayed to complete these activities. I am glad I did. I traveled to 6 other cities, including Urumqui, the westernmost city in China. During the trip, I conducted numerous presentations on Catholic Prep and interviewed over 20 students and their parents. Each are seeking the opportunity to come to America for high school and eventually an American college. 

As I talked to the students I was most impressed with their focus on the importance of education and the promise of our great country. For all the progress China is making to modernize, there is recognition that American education is still a superior experience. The students all have been learning English for years and could easily converse with me about America, our politics, and culture. The students I interviewed were exceptional, not only in their grades but athletic and musical talents. Their career goals or engineering, medicine, science, and business are much like our students at Catholic Prep.

While the majority of Chinese are not religious as we know it here, all the parents I talked to recognize the importance to teach their children about Catholicism as well as world religions. They knew that educated global citizens need to have a firm grasp of religion.

As I returned I was reminded that the parents I met in China, wanted what parents in America want for their children. They want the best for their children. They want them to live a better life. They want them to be safe and secure. They know that a solid education is the first requirement for that life. And, like our parents, they are willing to make the sacrifice to make that a reality. 

Flying home I also thought about how fortunate our American students are to have the opportunity to establish lifelong friendships with these Chinese students. The vast majority come from elite families whose parents are leaders in China. I am sure that our graduates from China will eventually go on to be leaders themselves. In a small way perhaps the relationships formed at Catholic Prep will help both groups of students have a better understanding of each other and know that all human beings are more alike than different.

I like to think of our outreach to China and their young people is our small contribution to what St. Pope John Paul II called, Pacem en Terris.   Peace on Earth.

Thomas H. Powell