Nashville Kurds celebrated in January when the public schools board voted to offer Kurdish language classes in local high schools. But school officials now say they're struggling to recruit students.
John Overton High School in South Nashville considered offering Kurdish classes for the first time this fall. But a Metro Nashville Public Schools spokesperson told WPLN not enough students enrolled to provide the course.
Nawzad Hawrami of the Salahadeen Center has been at the forefront of the Kurdish community's campaign to add the language to Metro's offerings. He says it will take more promotion in the schools to entice both Kurdish and non-Kurdish students to register.
More than 1,100 Metro students are Kurdish American, but Hawrami says it's been hard to recruit a critical mass because they're spread out in different schools across the district. Hawrami hopes he can encourage enough students to get classes going by next semester. Once students hear from their classmates who have already enrolled in Kurdish classes, Hawrami thinks they'll want to get involved, too.
"There's a lot of benefits for the students," he says, noting that it could help Kurdish students maintain ties to the language many only learn informally at home. "It will encourage them to continue the study."
Learning Kurdish can also be helpful in the local job market since many immigrants still rely on assistance from interpreters.
Hawrami is working with MNPS to introduce classes at the middle school level, where he thinks it would be easier to enroll a core of students. He's also suggested that the district start with smaller classes and then grow as more students gain interest.
In the meantime, Hawrami's visiting schools and thinking about alternative funding sources to hire Kurdish teachers, like grants.
"I'll find a way," he says.
The mayor and members of the Metro Council have already pledged to help Hawrami find funding, he says.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.