Serra Catholic High School friary to house foreign students
A residence hall not used for a decade at Serra Catholic High School will get new life this fall.
Through the Cambridge Institute of International Education, approximately 20 students, primarily from China, will be enrolled at Serra and housed at the friary on its campus atop Haler Heights in McKeesport.
“We're renovating it and turning it into a dormitory for international students, all female,” project lead Shannon Rich said Wednesday as she toured the former residence for Franciscan friars who taught from 1961-2004 at Serra.
The Cambridge Institute, founded in 2009, is based in Boston with offices in Los Angeles and the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Zhengzhou.
“Today's youth have a growing interest in world cultures,” according to Cambridge's philosophy. “In our global community of increasingly fast-paced communication, it is essential that secondary school students are given the tools to thrive. It is our belief that by fostering interaction between different cultures, we can promote mutual understanding and generate thoughtful problem solvers for the future.”
According to its website, Cambridge has worked with 140 schools in 35 states. Its stated mission is to increase the international profile of American secondary education and promote cultural exchange by cultivating relationships among youth in countries with mature, burgeoning, and rapidly changing economies.
The tour on Wednesday was taken by architects Sheri Spoharski and Jason Brody from the Design Alliance in Pittsburgh, Serra maintenance engineer Tim Fedora and James J. Zielinski, director of the Pittsburgh diocesan office for property planning and development.
It showed a building with more than a score of private rooms, with “Jack and Jill” washrooms between pairs of those rooms. Each dormitory room has a desk, a chair and a bed, and a common television set will be available in the living room.
The friary has wireless Internet service, which means the incoming students will be able to use the Chromebooks given to all Serra students.
Serra principal Timothy Chirdon said the Serra board and the Diocese of Pittsburgh approved an agreement with Cambridge.
“There is a high demand for international students to attend college preparatory high schools in the United States,” Chirdon said.
Serra has six from China and one each from Vietnam and Spain during the 2013-14 school year.
“We are an F1-approved school, which requires a process with the (federal) Department of Homeland Security,” Chirdon said. “We've worked with a few agencies in the past. Cambridge approached us about being a more exclusive agency for international students, so the partnership was formed.”
One reason Serra draws attention is its place on the Top 50 of 1,200 Catholic high schools in America, as determined by the Cardinal Newman Society.
In the Pittsburgh diocese that honor only goes to Serra, St. Joseph in Natrona Heights, Oakland Catholic in Pittsburgh and Quigley Catholic in Baden.
“I think all the Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are outstanding but each has its own identity,” Chirdon said.
A lot of details must be resolved before a new school year begins, including security, even in a friary that has secure doors between each floor.
“We have discussed cameras and card access,” Rich said, “but nothing has been decided on.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mon Valley motorists can expect more traffic woes
- Homestead Cemetery records will be preserved
- Yankee Doodle Dandies still going strong
- Hazelwood man shot in Homestead
- More Mon Valley communities add banners honoring veterans
- Elizabeth Twp. scraps results of Civil Service test
- Projects to impact McKeesport motorists
- W. Elizabeth mulls cost of new garage
- Another Lincoln Way project set to begin in White Oak
- White Oak woman shares memorabilia from mother’s 1915 high school graduation