MERIDEN – During a short ceremony at Platt High School on Monday evening, 59 city students received the Connecticut Seal of Biliteracy. Most of the graduates spoke Spanish, although there were a handful of other languages including Akan-Twi, Arabic, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish and Portuguese.
The seal was established by the state in 2017 to recognize graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in both English and another language, explained multilingual instructional coach Catherine Ragozzino.
She added that biliteracy involved a lot more than being bilingual, since the seal requires several tests that measure students’ reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. With the rigorous testing involved, she added that the seal could give students an additional advantage when applying to jobs or college.
“They get to cut the line,” she said. “This [seal of biliteracy] makes them so much more open to other opportunities communicating with other people and making connections with all sorts of different demographics.”
Ragozzino has been an educator for 17 years, but has taught English to Speakers of Other Languages at Maloney High School for three years. She has a mix of students in her classes, including some newcomers who have strong language skills in their native language. Some of these students challenged themselves to take the tests for the seal of biliteracy.
Melanye Quispillo is one of Ragozzino’s former students and a recipient of the seal for Spanish. She migrated from Quito, Ecuador, two years ago. She didn’t speak any English and started learning at school. After she graduates from Maloney next week, she wants to continue strengthening her English at a local community college before moving on to train as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
“I’m here now,” she said in her native Spanish. “I would have never expected this, but it’s nice.”
To highlight their achievements, each student received a certificate in proficiency with the assessments done by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages from either Platt Assistant Principal Geoffrey Kenyon or Maloney Principal Jennifer Straub.
The ceremony included brief video greetings from Superintendent Mark Benigni and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who also emphasized the advantage that the seal would bring to students.
“There’s so much value in knowing another language. Being able to communicate with more people and just understanding the cultural differences is going to strengthen your ability to perform in the future, get different jobs and compete internationally,” Cardona said.
Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re. To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.