The language department recently learned that they would be receiving a grant in April from the University of Maryland National Foreign Language Center. The grant, which is to be almost $10,000, will be used to fund a three week summer Arabic institute.
The grant was a part of the STARTALK program, which funds summer language programs for students, is currently being handled by the University of Maryland National Foreign Language Center (NFLC).
However, it had not yet been decided when grant acceptance letters were sent out whether the NFLC's contract would be extended for the 2008 year. If some other organization is awarded the contract, NFLC plans to help with the transition and Springbrook will not lose the grant.
"It's to get students started learning Arabic before the school year starts. It will be open to all students. There will be an application process in March," foreign language resource teacher Karen Willetts said.
Arabic teacher Mona Hamdy discovered the grant opportunity at the 2007 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Annual Convention and World Language Expo. At the convention, teachers could attend various sessions on different aspects of teaching foreign language.
One of these sessions was on the STARTALK program, which particularly aims to increase the number of students taking classes in Chinese and Arabic. STARTALK is one of the component programs of the National Security Language Initiative, which was announced in 2006 by President George W. Bush.
"They had a three day conference in San Antonio, Texas. I met the people who worked for STARTALK. It provides summer language learning opportunities. I met these people, and I applied for the grant, and I got it," Hamdy said.
Springbrook was one of numerous high schools and universities, including Stanford, to apply for the grant.
"A lot of colleges got it, but we were one of the few high schools," Willetts said.
In order to get the grant, the language department had to submit a proposal which outlined their goals, why they needed the funding, what the class would entail and how any grant money would be used. Through the summer institute, they hoped that they would increase interest and enrollment in Montgomery County's Arabic programs and help ease students into Arabic classes.
"It was very highly competitive," Hamdy said of the grant program.
One of the goals of the program is also to get younger students to enter into Arabic programs.
Participation for the students accepted into the program will be free. The program will teach basic oral communication skills along with basic reading and writing practices. Students will also be introduced to the culture of various Arabic countries.
Hamdy will be teaching the program with the help of two student aides who have completed Arabic 2. The aides have not been chosen yet.
Each day will be divided between language learning and cultural activities. In addition, Hamdy plans on arranging a field trip for the students to one of the Arabic embassies in Washington, D.C.
The proposal also discussed the Arabic program and situation at Springbrook as well as Hamdy's Arabic experience. Hamdy was born in Egypt. She has taught Arabic at her mosque for 35 years.
This is the second year that Arabic has been offered at the school and Springbrook is one of only three of the 25 public high schools in Montgomery County to currently offer Arabic.
Willetts and Hamdy have been invited to attend a networking and orientation meeting on March 7,8 and 9. All Montgomery County students in grades 8 through 12 will be allowed to apply for the program.