Lantern shining patterns on a blue background.

During the month of April, the contributions of Arab Americans are recognized during national Arab American Heritage Month. The first official federal recognition began in 2021, to celebrate the rich heritage, history, and hopes of the more than 3.5 million Arab Americans across the nation.

The Arab World

According to the Arab America Foundation, the Arab World is comprised of 22 countries, represented by the League of Arab States and include Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Somalia among its nations. These nations are divided into three major geographical regions: the Maghreb (North Africa), the Gulf region, and the Levant. The Arab World is extremely diverse in terms of its people, history, dialects and local customs. There is no one version of Arab culture. Though there is commonality based on shared language — with distinct dialects — and values, many differences exist among Arab peoples.

Across communities throughout the Arab World, the themes of faith — regardless of a specific faith tradition — family and community are often central to their lives. Arabs have many faith backgrounds. The three Abrahamic traditions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) are the faiths primarily represented among the Arab communities.

The Arab World Is Not the Middle East

The grouping “Middle East” refers to a region of the world that is linked by a shared location, but not a common culture. Therefore, not all Arabs are Middle Eastern. It should also not be assumed that all Arabs practice Islam. Arabs and Muslims are two different sets of people. In fact, of the top ten countries with the largest Muslim populations, only three are Arab nations. While Muslims can be found all over the world, they are predominantly found in parts of Africa and Asia.

Celebrating Arab Americans

Arab American immigration to the United States began in the late 1800s. During early phases of immigration, many families came to work in the auto industry in Detroit during its industrial boom. To this day, the suburbs in and around Dearborn, Michigan have some of the largest Arab American communities in the United States. Today, Arab Americans are integrated into every aspect of professional and economic life in the United States. Some of the many prominent Arab Americans across a variety of professions include: Frank Zappa (legendary rock guitarist), Hoda Kotb (Egyptian American television host), Donna Shalala (former US Secretary of Health & Human Services, President of the University of Miami), Elias Corey (Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner, 1990), and Steve Jobs (Co-founder, former chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc.).

BSD is Home to State’s First Public Arabic Bilingual Program

Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, the Bellevue School District opened the state’s first public Arabic bilingual program for grades kindergarten through second grade at Ardmore Elementary school. As the program grows each year, additional grade levels will be added to accommodate the expansion. Both in-district and out-of-district students, with diverse language proficiencies, are welcome to apply.

This unique program offers students the opportunity to learn the Arabic language during the regular school day while studying core subjects such as math, science, social studies, and language arts in English. The primary goal of this program is to celebrate culture and language and foster positive identity.

The Arabic Bilingual Program helps students develop a strong linguistic proficiency in English and Arabic, expand their future educational horizons, enhance cognitive skills and critical thinking, and embrace diversity and global perspectives.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.