The University of New Mexico recently earned its place within the national Startalk program, where New Mexico high school students and incoming UNM freshmen can become proficient in Arabic language and culture.

The program is designed to groom students to become valuable assets for national security as well as giving them an appreciation for the culture, language and lifestyles of the most relevant countries in present day.

The National Security Agency (NSA) created the Startalk program 10 years ago, essentially to create more, skilled teammates. The program grant allows for lunches, guest speakers, tuition and textbooks to be provided to students at no charge. The NSA hopes to add each of the 50 states to the program through flagship universities. UNM is among the most recent.

As the intensive four week course is instructed almost completely in Arabic, the first 10 percent of these four weeks initiates students into Arabic speech. Throughout the course, students will also be taken to prominent Arabic areas in Albuquerque to obtain some emersion into local Arabic culture. Such places include the Albuquerque Islamic Center and Café Istanbul.

Hosted by Africana Studies, the program has clear ties to National Security Studies. These areas provide seamless degree paths for the students to pursue at UNM.

Program organizers, speakers and volunteer professors have extreme passion for this field of study and are excited to welcome new members. The necessity for experts in this field grows daily, and now UNM can provide the first step in joining the team. A common phrase within the program is “Language is a bridge to peace."

The program application is intended for applicants ages 16 to 18. The deadline for submission is on May 31, 2015. The class takes place from July 13 to Aug. 7 in Mesa Vista hall on UNM's Main Campus.

Applicants are encouraged to view the Africana Studies announcement of the program and contact them with questions.