Kira Bender, a Del Norte High School (DNHS) student and resident of Rancho Bernardo, has been awarded one of approximately 625 National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarships for the 2013-2014 school year.

The NSLI-Y program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly-taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. NSLI-Y offers overseas study opportunities in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian and Turkish. The scholarship enables Kira to study Chinese in China for the summer. The scholarship covers all program costs for participants including domestic and international travel, tuition and related academic preparation, language testing, educational and cultural activities focused on language learning, orientations, meals and accommodations with a host family.

Launched as part of a US government initiative in 2006, NSLI-Y seeks to increase Americans’ capacity to engage with native speakers of critical languages by providing formal instruction and informal language practice in an immersion environment. Educational and cultural activities are designed to promote language learning and build mutual understanding and long-lasting relationships.

The goals of the NSLI-Y program include sparking a life-long interest in foreign languages and cultures, and developing a corps of young Americans with the skills necessary to advance international dialogue in the private, academic or government sectors. Participants will build upon the foundations developed through person-to-person relationships while abroad. Through her participation in the program, Kira will serve as a citizen diplomat while developing the skills necessary to be a leader in the global community. Kira is currently studying Mandarin Chinese at DNHS, and she plans to continue her studies at the college level. She has yet to decide her major in college, but she is certain it will be something in the STEM field, and intends to apply her language skills towards promoting a more unified, global community.

NSLI-Y is administered by American Councils for International Education in cooperation with AFS-USA, American Cultural Exchange Service, Americans Promoting Study Abroad, AMIDEAST, iEARN-USA, Legacy International, and Russian American Foundation. Applications for 2014-2015 NSLI-Y programs are expected to be available in the early fall.

The NSLI-Y program is open to anyone who is interested in pursuing a language in the hopes to promote positive change for the future at an international level. It all begins with an online application submission. Visit at www.nsliforyouth.org to learn more or to apply.