Qatar Foundation International (QFI) has awarded $20,000 to Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ (HCPS) new Arabic language program in Virginia. As part of the program, Harrisonburg City Public Schools will instruct first-time Arabic learners as well as heritage Arabic learners. Currently, QFI supports 25 schools in 11 states and Washington D.C., reaching over 2500 students.
Harrisonburg is both ethnically and linguistically diverse. According to the website Data USA, approximately 23.8 percent of Harrisonburg City residents speak a language other than English, which is higher than the national average by over 2 percent,and Arabic is the fifth most spoken language. Students in Harrisonburg City Public Schools speak 55 different languages, with ten percent of the English Learner (EL) students speaking Arabic. By providing for these language learners in addition to first-time Arabic learners, HCPS has the opportunity to support heritage speakers develop high literacy levels that will lead to advanced career opportunities later in life.
“Through this grant, QFI is creating opportunities for our students to become more globally aware and to be successful in whatever endeavors they choose in life,” notes HCPS director of World Languages Jeremy Aldrich. “Partnering with QFI not only benefits us financially by providing materials, but also creates a network of relationships that will benefit our teachers and students.”
“Arabic is an opportunity to bridge communities, and that is what excites us most about the partnership with Harrisonburg City Schools,” said QFI executive director Maggie Mitchell Salem. “Learning from others’ experiences integrating Arabic along with other critical world languages provides long-term benefit to learners and educators alike. Through this grant, and through the professional development provided, we hope to benefit all three groups of individuals that are the backbone of Arabic language programs at HCPS.”