This month 323 graduating seniors will be awarded the prestigious Seal of Biliteracy. The Seal is for students who achieve a high level of proficiency (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) in English and another language. This year’s seniors have achieved proficiency in six different languages.
“Every single one of my students is excited about this,” said Michelle Carpenter, a Spanish teacher at Boulder High. “Most of the kids I work with are completely bought into being bilingual. Their commitment is really unparalleled.”
Last year the program launched with 281 students receiving the honor. This year’s increase is due in part to counselors, teachers, and administrators encouraging their students to apply.
“It’s so nice seeing students rewarded for this. These are students who love language beyond requirements because they want to be fluent,” said Melissa Duplechin, a Spanish teacher at Monarch High School.
Students can earn the Seal of Biliteracy through various pathways. The district offers a K-12 dual language pathway in English/Spanish, as well as secondary world language programming in multiple languages. Students who speak other languages in the home may also qualify through approved assessments.
Arely Aguirre, a Centaurus senior receiving the Seal of Biliteracy, came to BVSD speaking Spanish and entered Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer at 4-years-old.
“I went to Pioneer Elementary School because that was the best place where I could learn the English language, but also continue my education in my native language,” said Aguirre.
The award can be received by both students who enter the school system from bilingual households as well as native English speaking students who develop their bilingualism entirely through school. This year, about 25% of the Seal recipients speak a language other than English at home.
“As I started arduously studying English in middle school, I began to lose some of my Spanish. That was a scary realization in which I pushed myself to go back to my roots and concentrate on Spanish. It was hard having to balance two languages, both of which were such a huge part of my life,” said Aguirre.
In order to qualify for the Colorado Seal of Biliteracy Endorsement, students have to meet the rigorous requirements set by the Colorado Legislature. Earning the Seal is not a one-year accomplishment. It’s a challenge students have worked towards achieving most of their educational career.
“I found the requirement of having to pass the AP Spanish language and culture exam challenging, as I had never applied my Spanish in that way. It was difficult, but I put my hard work in and was able to achieve my goals,” she said.
The Seal also provides recipients with a strong advantage in the next stage of their education or career. Arely’s hard work and perseverance has earned her the prestigious Daniels Scholarship, giving her a complete full ride to the University of her choice.
“I knew that the Seal would represent a mark of accomplishment not easily obtained,” said Aguirre. “It isn't an easy feat, and I believe that those who have put in the time and dedication to become bilingual or even multilingual should be recognized for it.”