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Summer language program grows into third year

High school students practice Arabic during the Federal Service Language Academy last summer at the University of North Georgia. This year, the program is adding Portuguese and advanced study in five other languages.

The Federal Service Language Academy (FSLA) for high school students held each summer at the University of North Georgia is expanding this year to include Portuguese and both beginning and advanced study in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, German, French and Korean.

This summer marks the third year of the program, which started in 2010 offering three languages to fewer than 100 high school students. The program draws students from across the state and around the country and is expected to top 150 students this year. The unique program, which combines fitness, federal service advisement and language immersion, has received acclaim and support from organizations across the country.

"They have been very generous to sponsor and promote us," said John Wilson, FSLA coordinator and director of UNG's Center for Global Engagement. "They feel comfortable with our curriculum and they know that the students are learning a lot, the teachers are high quality and the program's standards are very high."

One of the program supporters is the University of Georgia, recently designated the nation's only flagship school for Portuguese by the Department of Defense's National Security Education Program. Rather than creating a summer program for high school students on their own campus, the flagship coordinator at UGA approached Wilson about offering Portuguese through UNG's summer language program.

"It's a win-win situation for us," Wilson said. "We're really excited about having them here and I think offering Portuguese really adds something to our program."

During the intensive, 21-day program, high school students focus on one of seven languages and cultures identified as strategic for military or foreign service careers, such as the CIA, FBI, Department of State or armed forces. Representatives from many federal agencies visit during the camp to talk about potential career paths. The program is endorsed by the Georgia Department of Education, so students can earn Georgia high school course credit and also get a jump-start on college-level foreign language or international affairs studies.

The seven-day-per-week schedule keeps students busy, and they are expected to spend their time in and out of class immersed in the language they've chosen to study. Students start each morning at 6:30 with physical training and spend a total of eight hours learning each day—six hours in the classroom and two hours in the evening participating in study groups or other language activities. Each class also takes a field trip during the session that is specific to the language they are studying.

"I want the students to come out of this three-week program being really in love with the language and fascinated by the culture. I want them to have an unforgettable experience and be eager to learn more," Wilson said.  "They also get exposed to the University of North Georgia and our language, military and international programs. We have about six or eight students enrolled at UNG who attended the Federal Service Language Academy."

Two students from the 2011 FSLA were selected for an eight-week study program in Morocco through the State Department's National Security Language Initiative for Youth Scholarship Program in Arabic and Russian. Five students from the 2012 FSLA were selected as semi-finalists for the scholarship program in Arabic, Russian, and Chinese; winners will be announced this spring.  

For more information, or to apply, visit the FSLA website.

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