It is 7:45 Thursday morning when the students at Al Arqam Islamic School line up for an assembly before school. As always, boys in their lines, girls in another.
The morning scripture reading can be heard throughout the south Sacramento campus. A kindergartner adjusts her hijab, or head scarf. A teenage girl whispers to her little brother to settle down. Two eighth-grade boys talk about "American Idol."
Imam Mohamed Kamel steps forward, and the room quiets.
"Allah does not care about how good you look or how wealthy you are," he said near the end of his five-minute talk. "All he cares about is how clean your heart is and how good your deeds are."
Here at a converted Best department store across from Florin Mall, students learn lessons in academics and the Islamic way of life.
More than 300 students attend Al Arqam, which officials say has the only full-time comprehensive Islamic high school in California.
While other religious schools struggle with enrollment, Al Arqam is thriving and is one of the fastest-growing faith-based campuses in the region. . .
Two weeks ago, Al Arqam was accepted into the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate program, believed to be the first private school in the Sacramento region to achieve that status. (MORE)