Ninety-four seniors in the Hollister High School Class of 2023 have earned the California State Seal of Biliteracy, demonstrating that they attained proficiency in English and at least one other language: either Spanish, French or American Sign Language, according to school district staff.
This is the 11th year the school has awarded the seal to graduating seniors. Over the prior five years, 592 HHS students have attained the Seal of Biliteracy, says a press release from the San Benito High School District.
English Learner Program Specialist JoAnne Kaplansky said awarding of the state seal “promotes multilingualism as an asset. We want to encourage our students to study another language and culture because being multilingual opens up opportunities not just for employment, but also opportunities to connect with and understand other cultures.”
Of this year’s awardees, more than half (56%) are former English Learners, who began school classified as such because their home language was not English. They had to demonstrate proficiency in English based on California state criteria to reclassify before being eligible to apply for the State Seal of Biliteracy, says the press release.
The ultimate goal is for half of HHS graduates to be biliterate, aligning with the Global California 2030 initiative started in 2018 by the California Department of Education. The effort’s mission is to equip students with world language skills to better appreciate and more fully engage with the rich and diverse mixture of cultures, heritages and languages found in California and the world, while also preparing them to succeed in the global economy.
In order to demonstrate English proficiency, students must complete all graduation requirements, including earning an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above in English Language Arts classes in grades 9-12; and score at the “met” or “exceeded” standard on the ELA SBAC, AP English Language and Composition with a 3 or above; or earn a 3 or above on the SAT, says the press release.
To demonstrate proficiency in a second language, students must pass a foreign language Advanced Placement (AP) exam with a score of 3 or higher; complete a 4-year course of study in a foreign language with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or above in that course of study; and demonstrate oral proficiency in the language comparable to that required to pass an AP examination.
Senior Viktor A. Rodriguez, who is the only graduate receiving designation as fluent in Spanish and French, along with English, called his receipt of the State Seal of Biliteracy “a milestone.”
“Learning a new language, and subsequently culture, is not a one-and-done achievement; it’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life; something you’re able to carry with you wherever you may go,” Rodriguez said.
He said learning new languages and about other cultures “only helps bring the world closer together, and opens many doors in one’s professional career.” Rodriguez plans to continue his multilingual path throughout college “by diving deeper into my current languages and/or maybe even learning another.”
Senior Autumn Salinas, who earned Seal of Biliteracy designation for American Sign Language, thanked her ASL teacher, Spenser Simmons. Salinas noted, “This language is truly something I have enjoyed learning and I believe the language will be something I can use to help others in the future. Interacting with deaf people can be hard as a hearing person, but I’ve been taught how to communicate with them through ASL and advocate for their needs, as the deaf community deserves the same rights as hearing people.”
Senior Ariana Rivera, whose first language is Spanish, said earning the State Seal of Biliteracy “meant that all of my hard work developing two languages since I was very young had paid off. It meant that I had followed in my family’s footsteps as they became proficient and created opportunities with language and learning.”
She added that her parents have taught her that continuing to practice Spanish was essential to staying proficient, “as English always becomes the default. I know that being biliterate will continue to help me succeed, as it has in the past. In the same way I helped translate my grandparents’ mail when I was in elementary school, I will continue to offer opportunities for growth and build a community where language barriers do not hold us back.”
Encouraging students to pursue the State Seal of Biliteracy celebrates diversity and promotes achievement—both of which set up students for success beyond high school, says the press release.