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Scholarships aid high school students studying foreign language

FSLA Arabic Class.jpg
High school students go over phrases written in Arabic during the University of North Georgia's Foreign Service Language Academy (FSLA) held each summer. UNG has received a grant that will fund scholarships for students who wish to attend the program.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) will provide scholarships to more high school students who study foreign languages in the university's immersive summer program, thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Georgia Foundation for Public Education (GFPE).

The 21-day Federal Service Language Academy (FSLA) for high school students has been held each summer since 2010, and has expanded to offer beginning and advanced study in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, German, French, and Korean. Students focus on a language and culture identified as strategic for military or foreign service careers, and they are expected to spend their time in and out of class immersed in the language they've chosen to study.

The unique program, which combines fitness, federal service advisement and language immersion, has received acclaim and support from organizations across the country. FSLA is endorsed by the Georgia Department of Education, so students can earn Georgia high school course credit, also called Carnegie credits.

The program draws students from around the country, but the scholarships funded by the GFPE grant will go strictly to Georgia high school students. John Wilson, FSLA coordinator and acting director of UNG's Center for Global Engagement, said the grant will fund 30 need-based scholarships of $500. Previously, FSLA only was able to offer five $500 scholarships.

"The cost of FSLA is $1,895, and $500 can really make the difference in some students being able to attend or not being able to attend. It's going to allow access to FSLA for more students who could not afford it otherwise," Wilson said.

Increasing knowledge in foreign languages and cultures – especially strategic languages – is a key initiative at UNG. The program can help students get a jump-start on college-level foreign language or international affairs studies, and help close the language gap in the United States.

In 2010, only 18 percent of Americans reported speaking a language other than English, as opposed to 53 percent of Europeans who report speaking more than one language. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of elementary, middle and high schools offering foreign language instruction is declining and many rural and low-income students have limited access to language instruction.

"With FSLA, we're really trying to target students who do not have access to strategic languages at their high schools," Wilson said. "I also 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."

Representatives from many federal agencies such as the CIA, FBI, Department of State or armed forces also visit during the program to talk about potential career paths. The possibility of a future career in the military or with a federal or international agency draws many students to the languages offered each summer during FSLA.

"Arabic is such an important language right now because there have been so many changes happening in the Middle East," said Aurelia Williams, a rising junior from Atlanta enrolled in FSLA this past summer. "I chose Arabic to be able to pursue a government or United Nations career."

Applications currently are being accepted for FSLA's summer 2014 sessions. For more information about FSLA, or to apply, visit the FSLA website.

UNG, which offers college courses in 10 foreign languages, receives Department of Defense funding to support strategic language programs and has been designated as a flagship institution for instructing ROTC cadets in Chinese.

The Georgia Foundation For Public Education (GFPE) was created by Act of the Georgia General Assembly in 2010 for the single purpose of supporting educational excellence for students in Georgia.

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