Last evening at Tewksbury Memorial High School, parents, teachers, administrators and School Committee chair Bridget Garabedian gathered to celebrate 19 seniors who earned the Seal of Biliteracy, an award that recognizes students who demonstrate intermediate or high proficiency in English and one or more additional world languages.
One student, Éowyn Bailey, was recognized for proficiency in both Latin and Spanish as well as English.
The Seal of Biliteracy is affixed to the student’s transcript and diploma and often is a plus in college admissions and can result in waivers for language prerequisites. Criteria are set for students whose first language is English and who are learning a second world language as well as for English language learner (ELL) students who are developing academic proficiency in their home languages while also mastering English.
“The seal encourages students to pursue long-term language study and to develop proficiency rather than focusing on grades,” said Spanish teacher Sra. Maria de Graça Lealdini-Dudley, who hosted the ceremony with Karen Hodgson, who leads the English learner program; Latin teacher Paul Early; and superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan.
The students received medals, certificates and braided cords that they may wear at graduation.
Students who were awarded the Seal:
French & English: Sarra Barkallah, Aidan Crawson & Lila Won
Latin & English: Shreya Athalye & Éowyn Bailey
Spanish & English: Éowyn Bailey, Tiffany Chevez, Noelia Cura, Nicolette Evangelista, Angelina Georgacopoulos, Erica Hinkle, Alex Johnston, Hannah Kocsmiersky, Elyse O’Leary, Julianna Ricci, Roberto Rivera, Joseph Sarraf, Tierney Trant & Kendall VonKahle
Vietnamese & English: Cuong Tran
“Students, thank you for your commitment. Families, thank you for your encouragement. And TPS administration, thank you for your support,” said Lealdini-Dudley. “Becoming proficient in one or more world languages empowers students to share their own stories, understand the stories of others and engage with diverse communities. In other words, our goal is not simply to learn how to say the same thing in different languages but rather to respect our different perspectives and celebrate the many things that we do have in common.”
Research shows that being bilingual has long-term cognitive, cultural and economic benefits. At TMHS, students are given the opportunity to study Spanish, French and Latin for four years, but these students often took advantage of outside and summer enrichment opportunities.
“There are 16 languages spoken by ELL students walking our corridors, maybe more,” said Hodgson, who says the 2022 cadre of Seal of Biliteracy honorees was the largest yet. And she sees no signs of growth slowing. “We have 82 incoming kindergarten students who are bilingual.”
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have approved criteria to offer this award to students, according to the Seal of Biliteracy website. But not all cities and towns in the Commonwealth offer the program.
“Tewksbury is a role model for other districts,” said Theriault-Regan, who said TMHS enacted the program the first year it was available.
She also thanked the TMHS PAC for providing pastries and refreshments for students and guests.