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SCSD Students Earn NYS Seal of Biliteracy

This is a photo of six SCSD students standing in a line, smiling at the camera.As 33 SCSD students cross the stage at their high school graduation this June, they will be able to boast a special seal on their diploma: a New York State Seal of Biliteracy.
This is no easy feat: the seal is challenging to earn, requiring students to demonstrate intermediate high proficiency in English and a required level of proficiency in a world language. This includes earning an 85% or better in English and a world language course; completing a home language arts program with an 85% or better; earning a set score on an approved assessment in English and a world language; demonstrating successful completion of coursework from a nation outside the U.S.; and completing and presenting a culminating project in English and a world language that demonstrates proficiency in interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational communication.
These 33 students, representing Corcoran, Henninger, ITC, Nottingham, and PSLA at Fowler, did just that. Since November, the students worked on a presentation that they recently presented to a group of panelists at the SCSD Professional Development Center. They were also joined by elementary and middle school students who are currently in the SCSD Pathways to the Seal program, who were there to cheer them on. The younger students had their own rubrics to grade presentations, and asked questions of the older students as they presented.
“I liked learning about the different machines students get to use in the P-TECH program,” Seymour 5th grader Yanelis Matos-Rodriguez, who speaks English and Spanish, shared. “It was really different to hear them speaking in other languages. It was hard to understand! When one of them spoke [Kinyarwanda], some of the words sounded similar to Spanish words, but different. I liked seeing them because it makes me believe in myself that I can get a [Seal of Biliteracy] when I graduate. I think it will show that I’m proud to be bilingual!”
The graduating seniors showed their proficiency in Arabic, Karen, Dari, Spanish, Kinyarwanda, Somali, French, Tigrinya, Bosnian, Swahili, Rohingya, and English.
“I wanted to earn the Seal of Biliteracy as a way to honor the Arabic language,” PSLA at Fowler senior Alaa Laila explained. “I used this as a way to help me step out of my comfort zone and become more confident in my identity as an Arab woman. The English part was easy for me, because my topic was identity. The Arabic part was a challenge, both putting together the Arabic PowerPoint, and coming up with a topic! I ended up talking about food – specifically, national dishes and traditions and how food really connects us to our memories and experiences. Having the Seal of Biliteracy will look cool on my college applications and on my resume. But more importantly, it makes me appreciate the Arabic language. I battled in the past with my identity, and I suppressed my Arabic identity. This process has really made me appreciate my heritage, where I come from, and who I am.”
For Corcoran senior Mohammad Jafari, his topics – the Hazaras community, and gender and equality in Afghanistan – weren’t the challenge so much as re-learning his home language, Dari.
“It was hard for me to learn English at first,” he noted, of when he first came to America from Afghanistan in 2021. “Once I came to Corcoran, it became easier. There were so many people to talk to and I had the opportunity to practice. That kind of made me forget my language – Dari – because I wasn’t using it. The Seal of Biliteracy has helped me maintain it – I had to learn to write and speak it all over again. But it’s important to me to speak both languages because the more languages you speak, the more you can communicate with others! Now, I can communicate with family and friends back in Afghanistan, and I can also translate for community members here who aren’t able to speak English.”
Mohammad believes the Seal of Biliteracy will help him moving forward as well. He plans to study for a year at OCC before transferring to a four-year school. Ultimately, he hopes to attend Harvard to study Civil Engineering – a dream he has had since childhood.
ITC senior Gakuru Tumukunde, who presented about the P-TECH program at ITC, as well as the differences between schooling in the United States versus Uganda, has similar hopes.
“I haven’t ever done a whole project in my home language,” he shared. “And I’ve been here in the United States for almost eight years! I was never really fully fluent in Kinyarwanda, so it was cool learning to read and write it. This Seal of Biliteracy experience has helped me connect with my culture. It’s meant a lot to my mom, as well – she was a teacher. I know being bilingual will help me in my career because I’ve already translated a couple of times for people, and now I can continue to do so in my career.”
The New York State Seal of Biliteracy is intended to help affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society while also identifying for employers high school graduates who have biliteracy skills. It is also a way to help recognize the value of world and home languages, while preparing students with skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
We’re so proud of all of this year’s Seal of Biliteracy candidates for their hard work!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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