The Elmhurst school, in its 11th year, serves 455 students, most of whom are Spanish-speaking English Language Learners (ELLs) who have been in the country for less than four years.
In addition to teaching them English, the school also offers computer science courses and Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
“Then they go to college or whatever they decide to do with their lives,” Badia said.
Pan American International’s students need to not only learn English in four years, but also pass state exams. It’s also a portfolio school, so the students need to present that as well.
Many students are also undocumented, which comes with its own set of challenges. Badia said the school offers social and emotional support, including a mental health clinic in the building.
Social workers, substance abuse counselors and legal service organizations all work with the school.
“We support them emotionally in order to provide the education,” Badia said. “We take care of them in any way.”
Though Badia believes the school is located within a beautiful building that used to be a factory, the site has no gym, only a multi-purpose room.
They also share the building with three other schools that all serve different populations with different needs. The first floor is home to a District 75 school, the second floor has a transfer school, and the top floor serves a more mainstream school.
“We have a great relationship with all of the principals,” Badia said. “If we have any challenges, we try to resolve them together.”
Despite these challenges, Badia said Pan American International is a wonderful school with great students.
“We just want them to be a positive part of society,” he said.