Laurelhurst resident and recently graduated senior at St. Mary’s Academy (SMA) Nayantara Arora is one of approximately 500 students who was awarded a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Virtual Summer Intensive Scholarship to study Arabic language for five weeks.

The program is part of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) that promotes critical language learning among American Youth.

The 2020 Virtual Summer Intensive program was created as an online alternative to the NSLI-Y overseas immersion program due to the pandemic and pause of in-person exchange programs.

Arora is a first generation Indian-American who is passionate about social justice, equity and inclusion. She’s a committee director of the SMA Student Equity Team, leader of SMA’s Asian/Pacific Islander Club, workshop leader of UNITE Day (a day designated for equity/inclusion workshops) and IRCO volunteer.

In addition, Arora has co-founded two youth-focused organizations: Youth Advocates for Immigrants and Refugees (YAIR) which brings Portland youth together and International Teens Upholding Nature Alliance (iTUNA) fighting climate change with Micronesian and US teens.

Raised in a multilingual household, learning languages has been a necessity for Arora, who is fluent in five languages including Hindi/Urdu, Hebrew and Spanish.

She says, “I’m extremely interested in learning Arabic because it’s a widely spoken language. Along with the language, I’m hoping to learn about the culture, history and politics of the Arabic-speaking world.”

She acknowledges that “learning languages is a challenge which requires persistence” but feels that the payoff “is profound” and “bridges the differences we believe others have.”

Arora will attend the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College as a Stamps Scholar in the fall.