From Portland’s overwhelming rain to Jordan’s arid plains

While other Lincoln students will be walking in Washington Park this summer, freshman class president will be riding a camel across the deserts of Jordan. Akili Kelekele is one of 600 students who gets to study a language overseas thanks to a U.S. Department of State scholarship to travel to the Middle East. The prestigious scholarship is offered to students learning Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Russian, Korean, Turkish and Hindi.

Kelekele leaves for Jordan June 19 and stays for six weeks, perfecting his Arabic language skills in everyday life.

Kelekele began learning Arabic in 2013 in the sixth grade at East Sylvan. At Lincoln, his teacher Belal Joundeya encourages students to “not speak English in class.” Akili says it’s a good technique of teaching because it “forces you to remember [the curriculum] and not brush it off.” Also he explains that, “Mr. Joundeya lives in Jordan and might see me.”

Any student can apply to the program, which is jointly run by the State Department  and the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. Interested students should do what Kelekele has done: study hard, take a foreign language as early as possible and find ways to incorporate it into your daily life.

Kelekele plans to join Lincoln’s Constitution Team next year and when he graduates from college, he wants to become an international lawyer. Those Arabic skills may come in handy.