The Arabic Culture Student Association has recently become a program at Bellevue College. A little more than a year ago, they were a club of four members. Today, ACSA has 310 active members and receives the support of more than a dozen sponsors in King County, including KUOW Public Radio and Byblos Deli.
Orchideh Raisdanai, a founding member of the club and current chairman, hopes to expand their outreach to the community.
“Becoming a program allows us to integrate with the academic programs at Bellevue College directly,” Raisdanai said. “It allows us to have resources and networking opportunities to connect with the Arab community and advance career aspirations.”
In May of last year, ACSA hosted the Arabic Heritage Week event at Bellevue College. There was music and dancing as well as food and an Arabic film festival.
ACSA’s goal was to expose students to Arabic culture. It was these types of events that gave the ACSA publicity and attracted many of its members. Arabic Heritage Week was awarded Event of the Year by Student Programs.
Vanessa Chukri, vice president of ACSA described her experience as one of its leaders. “There’s a lot of work to put in,” she said, “but it’s always fun and I’m making life-long friends, we love to show our classmates and community how much we love the Arabic culture.”
ACSA is open to anyone and everyone. Interested students are recommended to come to the weekly meetings on Tuesdays in room A243 from 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. The meetings are immediately followed by a second year Arabic class, taught by the program’s faculty adviser, professor Abdelhakim Chakour.
ACSA’s new Project and Events Manager, Destin Albay, hopes to target a larger audience and attract even more members. “As ACSA continues to grow, it’s our responsibility to set up more events and better serve the community, after all that’s how we grew in the first place,” said Albay.
ACSA is currently working with the Muslim Student Association and the Jewish Culture Club to get halal and kosher foods in the Cafeteria. Currently, BC Food Services does not serve such food as part of its daily fare, and cannot provide it through catering either, which ACSA argues stunts their growth and hinders their ambitions.
ACSA held an Arabic Film Festival in Marymoor Park last August. The event lasted all day, with a variety of activities for children, professional halal catering and a screening of the famous Egyptian film “Days and Nights.”
On March 12 the ACSA had a bake sale, selling treats such as baklava, which is a Turkish sweet pastry made of many layers of thin dough held together by honey or syrup.
The group also celebrated National Womens Day, recognizing the incredible women who shape the Arab World, according to their Facebook page. In addition, they teamed up with the Muslim Student Association to give hijab tutorials for those who missed National Hijab Day.
Albay sees a bright future in ACSA.
“I believe Arabic Culture Student Association does a good job of educating students about Arabic Culture,” Albay said. “We provide reliable support for people all while having a good time.”