¿Por qué no los dos? Roaring Fork School District graduates leave high school fluent in two languages | PostIndependent.com

¿Por qué no los dos? Roaring Fork School District graduates leave high school fluent in two languages

Roaring Fork High School graduate and Seal of Biliteracy recipient Alexa Solis De La Cruz and her family.

When students are enrolled in English Language Development classes (ELD), it’s easy for them to lose some of their native language. However, with the Seal of Biliteracy program at the Roaring Fork School District, many of those same students in elementary or middle school who were ELD learners are leaving high school with a diploma and the certification that they’re fluent in two languages.

Mary Kate Adams is wrapping up her fifth year at Roaring Fork High School and was a supervisor for the Seal of Biliteracy students this past year.

“I think it just speaks to their adaptability, their dedication, just their hard work and perseverance. They really demonstrate the habits of a scholar that we seek to teach students. And I think these students specifically really are exemplars of those,” Adams said.

Graduate Emmanuel Santana Meraz will be attending Colorado State University this fall to study mechanical engineering and said even in his current job he’ll often use both languages.

Roaring Fork High School graduate and Seal of Biliteracy recipient Emmanuel Santana Meraz and his parents.

“I work with a lot of other people who don’t speak English or don’t speak Spanish, so it’s a big help for me to be able to communicate through both, for the people I’m working with and the employees,” Meraz said. “I would say (my family) is proud because of ELD. And then to get the Seal of Biliteracy, me and my sister being able to get it, it was a big accomplishment for my whole family.“

Fifteen students graduated with the seal this past year, more than double the seven students who earned it last year, and Adams said she hopes to see 30 students graduate with the award in spring 2022.

“We also have a number of students who are already taking it on as juniors, and for some people even sophomores, because they want to get it done, they want to make it happen,” Adams said.

Graduate Jeysel Orellana Perez will be continuing her education at Metropolitan State University in Denver and studying social work. She said she sees the seal coming in handy for enabling her to communicate twice as much with the patient clientele she sees.

“I’m going into social work, and I think having it will be really beneficial, in just helping in both Spanish and English,” Perez said.

Jeysel Orellana Perez, recipient of the Seal of Biliteracy, and her three brothers at her Roaring Fork High School graduation.

Although it was an unusual year, with a combination of in-person and hybrid learning thanks to the pandemic, Adams said students still had to meet the high criteria with test scores and proof of their language acquisition in order to receive the seal. Graduate Alexa Solis De La Cruz will also be attending CSU in the fall to study interior architecture and design.

“It feels pretty great. Just to make that huge step to people recognizing that I took difficult classes to prove that I am fluent in English as well,” De La Cruz said. “I’ll get a chance to better understand how to speak professionally in both languages.”

De La Cruz said if other students are interested in the seal, then they should go for it, and that while it can take some time to gather all the materials to prove their proficiency, at the end of the day it opens doors and is worth the work.

“It just speaks volumes to who they are as humans and their dedication to education, learning and achieving. … I’m just excited to see everything they achieve, because I know that they’re going to be so successful in what they do,” Adams said.

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

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