International Students Choose Jenison


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When family and friends are thousands of miles and oceans away it seems difficult to imagine that a new, albeit temporary, home can be made but students from China, South Korea, Finland and Spain have done just that this past school year in our community.

These students stay with Jenison Host Families and integrate into the life of Jenison High School.  With open arms, amazing local families embrace these students, sharing with them the love and hospitality that is customary within our Jenison community.  Once settled into home-life, a meeting takes place with one of the high school guidance counselors, Mr. Terry Dykstra.  Based upon interests and academic goals, Mr. Dykstra guides students in building their daily course schedule.  Prior to the first day of school, all are invited to attend an orientation of the building, learning how to navigate as well as meet other students.

As the school year gets underway, international students experience the support each teacher extends to them individually.  From academic assistance in a specific class, to the thoughtful care of asking another student to walk them to their next class, Jenison teachers are always putting students first.  Additionally, the appreciation and awareness of other cultures in each classroom allows for a unique experience with international and Jenison students alike.

One student that chose to attend Jenison High School this year is Mary Wang who has been studying at Longcheng High School for 2 years. “It is my honor to be the first foreign exchange student from Longcheng, to study at Jenison High School. I decided to come to the USA because I planned to study abroad for my higher education as well. Finally, I made my decision to study in Great Britain and I have already received offers from several schools. I am interested in politics, history, and debate so my major will be International Relations & Politics.”


International students pictured with Terry Dykstra, Becky Redmer, Emily Kaminski + Tom TenBrink. Mary Wang is seated in front of Mr. TenBrink.


Some International students have the option to attend Jenison High School by applying independently with an agency, while others have the ability to come here by way of a direct partnership.  As more international awareness of Jenison takes place, there has been a desire to partner with schools overseas, specifically in China.  Over the past three years, these partnerships have matured and produced far reaching options for students.

Emily Kaminiski, JIA International Coordinator of Student Services, supports many international students from a multitude of pathways that lead them to Jenison.  “From the two current partnerships, we project our international student population to continue to grow next year.  Jenison is always seeking new opportunities and possibilities. Currently there are initiatives with Scotland and additional schools in China, to allow study abroad opportunities for our JHS students, and to increase our international student population.”

And while it isn’t always easy, sophomore student Mateo Blanco from Spain will tell you, “You have to grow, nobody can tell you, you have to live it to really understand it.”  South Korean sophomore, Hayeong Choi says that she misses her family and the food of her home country but knows that she has matured a lot during her time here.

“These students are so courageous!  At such a young age they leave their families and all that is familiar, to immerse themselves into another culture, because they know it is good for their long term benefit!  It is not the easy decision to make!  It’s incredible to watch them arrive very timid, and over time become a natural fit with their home stay families.”
– Ms. Emily Kaminski

As the program continues to grow the need for Host Families grows as well.  If you’re interested in becoming a Host Family for one of these brave international students please contact Ms. Kaminski at the JIA:  616.457.3400, x3349

We’re so glad these students have made Jenison their home this year and we hope they will take a little bit of us with them around the world!

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Hayeong Choi with her host family.

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