Walter Payton Preparatory High School

Students on an exchange program

Opened in 2000, Walter Payton College Prepatory High School in Chicago integrates international studies in English, social studies, math, science, world languages, music, and art courses. Students learn about international cultures and have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with people of other countries and cultures. Courses across the curriculum are offered at both the Honors and Advanced Placement levels and approximately half of the students are engaged in the Advanced Placement program. These core courses are coupled with weekly seminars on topics such as Zulu language and culture, the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations in the 20th century, Latin America in films, and world religion.

Walter Payton’s exemplary Language Department enables students to select a four year course of study in Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, or Latin. Students have the opportunity to travel to a country where the target language is spoken and participate in a home-stay. Due in part to the school’s strong partnership with the Sister Cities of Chicago organization and the support of faculty in helping students to raise funds to enable all students to participate in such activities, exchange programs exist with schools in Liaoning Province, China; Strasburg, France; Casablanca, Morocco; Osaka, Japan; and Concepcion, Chile and students have also been fortunate to participate in an exchange with students from Durban, South Africa. Students prepare for this travel abroad by taking a semester-long seminar on the culture, politics, and history of the country and engaging in online research, videoconferences, and email to learn more about and communicate with natives of the country. Walter Payton is also home to one of the first Confucius Institutes, an initiative of the Chinese Ministry of Education, which creates a strong foundation for Chinese language learning and cultural exchange not only for the school, but also for the city of Chicago as a whole.

Partnerships with DePaul University, Heartland, the Illinois Visitors’ Center, the Department of Language and Culture of Chicago Public Schools, and the State Department have led to numerous international visitors from around the world. The school also enrolls international students, currently including those from Morocco, Palestine, Ethiopia, Chile, Bulgaria, and China. Walter Payton’s Distance Learning Lab enables students to connect with native speakers of other target languages and to host international videoconferences conferences. All of these academic and extra-curricular opportunities combine to make Walter Payton College Prepatory High School a model in Chicago for academic rigor and international education for a very diverse student population.

Walter Payton is an urban public high school serving 835 students in grades 9 to 12 of whom 39% are White, 25% are African American, 22% are Hispanic, and 14% are Asian or Pacific Islander. 34% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

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