Three Maxwell High School and five Williams High School seniors will receive their diplomas next month with a unique distinction on them that signifies they are even better positioned for success in the 21st century: a Seal of Biliteracy.
Daniel Lara, Giselle Ocampo, and Marisol Ordonez Melesio, of Maxwell, and Lizbeth Salazar Aceves, Martin Gomez Guzman, Margarita Jocelyn Hernandez, Erika Guadalupe Ortega Arias, Noheli Lilivette Rivera-Mendez, of Williams, received their Seal of Biliteracy at a recognition ceremony on May 9.
All but Ocampo and Gomez, who were working, attended the ceremony with their families at the Education Village to receive their awards from the Colusa County Office of Education.
The California State Seal of Biliteracy, established by legislation, certifies that each of the students have attained a high level of proficiency in two or more languages.
“The importance of the biliteracy program is to recognize those students that are fully bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural,” said Maria Arvizu-Espinoza, assistant superintendent, Colusa County Office of Education. “That will increase their opportunity to get a better job, go to college, get a higher education, or even open a business. There are a lot of benefits to being bilingual.”
While all of the students receiving the Seal of Biliteracy speak mostly Spanish at home and English at school, being biliterate is more than that. They must be able to read and write fluently in both languages.
The English criteria includes completion of all English language arts requirements for graduation with a 2.0 grade point average, and passing the California Standards test in English language arts administered in grade 11 at the proficient level or above.
Students can demonstrate proficiency in two or more languages by passing a foreign level Advanced Placement examination with a high grade, or passing a Scholastic Assessment Test II Foreign Language examination with a score of 600 or higher.
While the awards are provided by the state, Arvizu-Espinoza said the County Office of Education was happy to recognize the students who have worked so hard to become fully biliterate.
The majority of the students said they plan to continue their studies after graduation.
Marisol Melesio plans to attend Yuba Community College to become a medical assistant.
Although she grew up speaking both languages, Melesio said being fully biliterate allows her to translate either language for people who are not bilingual.
“It means a lot,” she said.
Margarita Hernandez plans to attend California State University, in Chico, to study medicine.
“I want to be a pediatrician,” said Hernandez, who attended Williams schools all her life, and is involved in a number of activities at school, including the senior class.
Although it has not been announced, Lizbeth Aceves will likely graduate at the top of her class with a 4.3 grade point average and be the 2019 Williams High School valedictorian.
She plans to study mathematics at California State University, at Sacramento, to become a high school math teacher.
“I would like to possibly come back to Williams to teach,” said Aceves, who was born in Colusa and attended school in Williams all her life.
Jose Ramon Munoz, a professor of English and Spanish at Yuba College, was the keynote speaker. ■