Rural New York School Recruits Overseas Students As hundreds of districts consolidate their schools, some remote communities are fighting back by seeking out international students to fill their nearly empty classrooms.
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Rural New York School Recruits Overseas Students

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Rural New York School Recruits Overseas Students

Rural New York School Recruits Overseas Students

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN: Thirty-five kids are crowded around tables, talking and laughing. It looks like one of those big overstuffed classrooms that we all complain about. But it turns out this isn't one class, or even one grade. This is Newcomb, New York's entire high school and middle school combined.

SKIP HULTS: You know, I'm the first to admit that we're very under-utilized. The only thing we are lacking in our building is students.

MANN: The mine here closed in the 1970s and the town has been shrinking steadily ever since. The school district cut staff and merged whole grades. Then four years ago, with enrollment still dropping, Hults thought why not bring in students from overseas. He started advertising the school the way you might market a high-dollar American prep-school.

MANON VERNETTE: When I saw Newcomb, I just didn't know if I would be able to have friends, real friends, here.

MANN: Manon Vernette is a stylish-looking 18-year-old from Lille France, a city with more than a million people. She said she wanted to learn English and live in America and the price tag for studying in Newcomb was a bargain - just $7,000 a year, room and board included. But she had no idea just how small and remote this village would be.

VERNETTE: I start to cry.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MANN: Were you lonely?

VERNETTE: At first, yes. But it's okay now. It's really different but it's like a big family, so that's why I like to be here.

MANN: This year, there are nine foreign students from as far away as Russia and Vietnam enrolled in Newcomb.

LINDA MONTAINE: When they arrive, it's like culture shock.

MANN: Linda Montaine is director of the program, working with the kids and with the host families who house them in exchange for a small stipend.

MONTAINE: Because they think New York and, of course, when they think New York they think the city and this is nothing like it.

MANN: But Montaine says they adapt fast, going to school dances, playing on the basketball and softball teams, learning to ski and snowshoe.

MONTAINE: But by the time they leave, it's family and there are many tears shed. Many of them have come back and many intend to come back yet again.

MANN: Caitlan Yandon is 13 years old and has lived here her entire life. Before the foreign students arrived, she says this small town could be really claustrophobic.

CAITLAN YANDON: There's a certain way that everything is, right? Because it's such a small school and everyone is pretty much the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MANN: Seventeen-year-old Anh Pham from Hanoi says studying here is a stepping-stone to an American college and a good career.

ANH PHAM: I already prepare my application to send to Adelphi and Clarkson University.

MANN: When these foreign students move on, Newcomb town supervisor George Canon says he hopes they'll be replaced by an even bigger class of international recruits.

GEORGE CANON: To lose a school is to lose your identity as a town, and we would fight to hold that, no matter what.

MANN: For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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