By Megan Smith –
The Arizona Cultural Academy (ACA) held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of a new
wing on December 19, 2015. The school has expanded to more than 350 students over the past
few years. The newest addition to the school is Phase 4 of their overall building plan and is
comprised of five classrooms and a dual computer and library room. The expansion allows ACA
to split its kindergarten through fifth grade into A and B classes. The growth of the school is
steady and the administration expects to fill the rooms within the next three years.
The total cost of the project was estimated to be around $900,000. The last of the funding was
secured in July 2015. The next challenge for the ACA is furnishing the new rooms as well as
landscaping the soccer field.
The ribbon cutting was a private ceremony. The administration hosted around 100 people from
the Phoenix community. Local politicians and members of the Phoenix Muslim community were
in attendance. The evening was filled with music and speeches. Dr. Shabib Alhadheri recited a
short prayer. This was followed by the official ribbon cutting, which was done by an ACA sixth-
grader and Councilwoman Kate Gallego. Next came a tour of the new facility, followed by a
recitation from the Holy Qur’an by student Hafiz Farhan Alam. Speeches by ACA Board
Chairman Dr. Salaheddine Tomeh, Gallego and ACA Council President Irfan Choudhery
wrapped up the ceremony.
ACA officials were particularly encouraged by Gallego’s appearance and support. Tomeh said,
“It was assuring to have the councilwoman’s unconditional support of the Muslim community
and their project in times when some other politicians are thriving on a campaign of fear, hatred,
Islamophobia and discrimination.”
The Phoenix community has come together to support the school as well. The police have
assisted with security needs and neighbors of the ACA facility voted in support of the school
being built. The Muslim community has consistently shown support for the academy. The
school, in turn, is concerned for “how to plan for the future expansion and growth for a school
that serves all Muslim families in the community, those who can afford private education and the
ones who cannot, in an era when the cost of education is spiraling out of control, in both public
and private sectors,” according to Tomeh.