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This Dawson County High School senior is in the running for a national language program
Dessie Durham UNG language program
Photo by UNG photographer Peggy Cozart. Dessie Durham is a semifinalist for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). The program funds high school students to spend up to a year abroad studying a critical language.

A Dawson County High School student has been named semifinalist for a national language program.

Dessie Durham wanted to challenge herself academically, so she dual-enrolled in classes at the University of North Georgia (UNG). Since then she has excelled and will earn her associate degree in May, before earning her high school diploma, according to a news release from the university.

Now, Durham wants to spend a year in Jordan studying Arabic, and she is one step closer to achieving that goal. The 18-year-old has been named a semifinalist for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a program that funds high school students to spend up to a year abroad studying a critical language.

"It's very exciting to have gotten this far," Durham said in the release.

Durham’s interest in the Arabic language began when she enrolled in UNG’s six-week Summer Language Institutes (SLI) to earn eight academic credit hours in 2019.

"I fell in love with the language," she said.

The high school student credits Awad Awad, program director of Arabic study abroad and coordinator of Arabic SLI, for encouraging her to apply for the scholarship program and for providing her with insight about the culture. Durham said that Awad shared the culture aspect of Arabic and that she enjoyed hearing about the language, culture, religion and humanity behind the language.

Durham will find out in April if she was chosen for the scholarship.