While many of his classmates spent their summer working or passing time at the shore, junior Junior Henry Leopold was halfway around the world studying the Arabic language and immersing himself in the culture of Morocco.
As far as anyone can tell, Leopold is the first Pennridge student ever to participate in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a U.S. State Department program. Only 200 students were chosen from among 3,300 applicants for the program and only 24 went to Morocco.
The aim of the program is to encourage students to learn the language that the country needs for security and diplomacy. Ultimately, these students will be able to act as citizen ambassadors on behalf of the U.S. government.
During his six weeks in Morocco, Leopold spent up to six hours a day studying Arabic and participating in civic and cultural projects, including a refugee camp. As part of a group of just 24 students in Morocco, he traveled to Tangier, Marrakesh, Casablanca and other cities. The group also traveled to a small town near the Sahara, where they rode camels for more than hour into the desert to sleep in the Sahara for a night.
At the conclusion of his classes, Leopold made a five-minute presentation completely in Arabic and in full native dress.
One of the lessons Leopold learned firsthand was the power of language to create bonds of friendship, respect and understanding across cultures.
The experience fueled Leopold’s interest in language and history and he hopes he can apply some of what he experienced to his AP World History class this year. It also made him reaffirm his commitment to continue learning Spanish, and he is currently reading a book on Lawrence of Arabia in Spanish.