Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

St. Croix students come from around the world

Merlyn Kruse, left, with Lei (Cathy) Wu and Kangman Chow

Merlyn Kruse, left, with Lei (Cathy) Wu and Kangman Chow

Unique outreach program makes for diverse enrollment and provides opportunities for sharing Christ

Even though “international” doesn’t appear in the name of St. Croix Lutheran High School in West St. Paul, the school certainly has an international flavor. It currently has 50 students from other countries among its 375 students. And, it happened without scholarships for the international students.
St. Croix President Merlyn Kruse says the international emphasis at the school has come about for three reasons:
* “We want to use the facilities with which we’ve been blessed.
* “We see it as a form of outreach.
* “It makes our students from this area more ‘world aware.’”
Success in enrolling international students didn’t happen overnight. Kruse, who has been at the school since 1984, says a trip to Hong Kong seven years ago started the process. Just three Asian students came that first year. Today 50 international program students and 35 other residential students occupy two campus dormitories. Those dormitories are buildings that used to house the nuns and Christian Brothers who staffed the former Archbishop Brady High School in West St. Paul, which St. Croix acquired in 1992.
St. Croix Lutheran High School was founded in 1958. By 1991 it was outgrowing its facilities about two miles away from the former Roman Catholic high school. The Brady school (built in 1964), which had been vacant for a year, proved to be an economical alternative to new construction on the old campus.
Today, St. Croix Lutheran is comfortably housed on a 30-acre campus. It is nearing completion of a $2 million expansion of its outdoor athletic facilities. Kruse is excited, too, about the upcoming construction of a new chapel to complement the school’s “soul, mind, body” mission. In February 2002 an anonymous donor came forward with a gift to make construction of a chapel possible. In addition, the same donor is providing a permanent en-dowment that will support a person who will work in the spiritual development of students.
Kruse says that Asian countries have provided the majority of the foreign students coming to the school to this point. He attributed that to a desire on the part of Asian families to enroll their children in a quality U.S. university. Enrolling them first in a U.S. secondary school prepares them to be successful in reaching this goal. But, he said, laughing, “at some meetings with parents, 90% of the time is spent talking about Minnesota’s cold weather reputation.
“Many of these students have better study skills than American students. Their schools turn out students who are advanced in math and science with excellent abilities in note-taking and memorizing. They tend to be less skilled, at first, in problem-solving and critical thinking.”
Currently, most of the international students come from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Mainland Chinese families are also interested in St. Croix but student visas are more difficult to obtain. Kruse said there’s a growing interest in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Austria and eastern Europe, including Russia.
Kruse stated that his goal for the international program at St. Croix Lutheran is to keep international student enrollment at around 10-15% of the total student body. “After all, those international students come here to learn English and American skills. If we have too high a percentage of international students, the learning experience will not be what parents want for their children.”
Kruse commented that just being with students from Christian homes has an im-pact on the foreign students, many of whom are non-Christian. The result has been one to three baptisms per year among the international students.
Kangman Chow from Hong Kong is a senior at St. Croix. He says the dormitory supervisors are “very good, like a friend who cares about you a lot. And, we have chapel every day.” He added the school he attended in Hong Kong was a Christian school but he had never had the “chapel experience.”
Lei Wu, a senior from Guangzhou, China, is in her second year at St. Croix. She came because a friend was at the school and their mothers had been school classmates. She remarked, “When I came, I thought St. Croix was very small, but now I feel much better about it. The teachers and students are very friendly.”
St. Croix Lutheran High School has 27 supporting congregations, most of them WELS congregations, and a handful of ELS churches. Supporting congregations cover an area that stretches from Forest Lake on the north to Red Wing on the south, and from Hudson, Wisconsin, on the east to Pilgrim Lutheran in Minneapolis on the west. The school currently has a teaching staff of 26 and a total staff of 51. Some young staffers teach part-time and are dorm supervisors as well.
For additional information about St. Croix Lutheran High School, call 651-455-1521 or write St. Croix Lutheran High School, 1200 Oakdale Ave., West St. Paul, MN 55ll8-2699.