When Stagg High School senior Neda Safadi enrolled in Spanish class as a sophomore, she learned a striking lesson about Hispanic people.
"I thought, for some reason, that because everyone spoke the same language, the culture was the same," she said. "Each country is different."
The Bridgeview teen thinks that a similar lesson could be taught through Arabic language courses in the local schools. That's why she and her younger sister Lema Safadi, 14, have joined a local campaign to get Arabic on the course roster in Consolidated High School District 230 and Oak Lawn Community High School District 229.
The proposal to add classes in the Arabic language -- which the federal government has deemed as an academic area where growth is critical to national security and commerce -- is being mulled over by administrators in the two districts.
"Do we have a feeling one way or another? Not yet," said Brenda Reynolds, who oversees curriculum in District 230.
Surveys to gauge interest in expanding foreign language offerings already have gone out to Oak Lawn parents. District 230 plans to follow suit beginning late in the summer. If there's an adequate response in favor of adding the language, classes could be available to students in both districts by fall 2009.
But the slow pace of deciding whether the high schools will take the leap has left Mohammed Sahloul, president of the Bridgeview-based Mosque Foundation, feeling frustrated.
"They are dragging their feet unnecessarily," said Sahloul, who has pledged to secure financial support to get the new classes going since first pitching the idea about a year ago.
"We told the school districts we want this for our community and we are behind you, we will help you find the resources," he said.