FBI's Newest Recruits: Arabic-Speaking Kids

Agency says interest in Arabic charter school just a coincidence

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Why is the FBI so interested in an Arabic-language school in Fremont, Calif.?

    The Bay Area is a melting pot of languages and culture, and local schools are no exception.

    But one Arabic-language school is standing out for a different reason: the interest it's drawn from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    FBI's Newest Recruits: Arabic-Speaking Kids

    [BAY] FBI's Newest Recruits: Arabic-Speaking Kids
    An Arabic-language charter school in Fremont, Calif. has agents interested.

    Fame Public Charter School in Fremont, Calif. hopes to become the nation's first Arabic-language immersion school. The school aims to make learning fun for students who may have felt they didn't fit in at other schools because of their language, religion, or dress. (Some students, for example, wear a head scarf.)

    The students speak 15 different languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, and Farsi; only 3 in 10 speak Arabic at home. And while Arabic-language classes are taught here, the rest of the curriculum is in English.

    "There was a large population of students, particularly in the East Bay, who were not developing their English-language skills well because there weren't programs for them," said Maram Alaiwat, Fame's founder and CEO. "We have been re-designating students into English-language fluency faster than the rest of the state. The results are astronomical."

    Alaiwat is taking on a challenge, both in teaching English and Arabic to her students. Arabic is one of the hardest languages to learn. But it is spoken by an estimated 600 million people worldwide, and could be more common than English by 2050.

    For many, though, there's a more immediate interest in Arabic-language skills, and that's the troubled state of the world.

    The FBI and other intelligence agencies have struggled to recruit enough Arabic-speaking personnel.

    But FBI agent Joseph Schadler said that has nothing to do with his agency's support of the school.

    "The fact that they teach Arabic never entered into our calculations on this," said Schadler. "We are always looking for pepole to become FBI agents -- it doesn't matter if they are in a French immersion school, a Tenderloin community school, or at Fame."

    Fame students are mentored by FBI agents to make positive choices in life.

    "If some of them go on to be FBI agents or FBI support employees or President of the United States, then we'll have gone far beyond succeeding," said Schadler.