Program teaches NM students new languages, sends them around the world

Posted at: 09/09/2013 10:29 AM
By: Heather Mills, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Megan Higgins learned Chinese and spent the summer in China.
Megan Higgins learned Chinese and spent the summer in China.

A group of Albuquerque students spent their summer learning a new language. Not just a new language, but a completely new alphabet.

They say it's necessary for our global world. Now, they're hoping other students will follow their lead.

Carlo Aragon learned to speak Arabic as a high school exchange student. He's been to Egypt and Oman, and now, he's helping other students do the same.

"A lot of students in New Mexico do not get out of the state," Aragon said. "After 9/11, we do not have enough people who actually speak critical languages."

That's where the National Security Language Initiative for Youth comes into play. Created in 2006, it's a government initiative to prepare students to become leaders in an ever-changing global world.

"The scholarship covers everything, the flight's free, tuition is free, everything is free. It's a full scholarship for students," Aragon said.

Students like Sandia High School senior Megan Higgins. Megan was one of six Albuquerque students selected from more than 3,000 applicants. She spent the summer in China.

"I would really like to become a foreign services officer for the U.S. Department of State," she said.

But, it's certainly not easy.

"You have to learn an entire new alphabet; an entire new vocabulary system." Aragon said.

Aragon says it's not only rewarding, but it's necessary to understand other, unique cultures.

"You have to change your entire mindset. By doing that, I was able to understand, really what Arabic culture was like. What Islam culture was like." he said. "It opens up so much."

The languages offered in this intensive program are Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian and Turkish. For more information visit: http://www.nsliforyouth.org.