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Students prove that more languages are better than one
Area students were recognized for passing the multilingual proficiency test. Students were awarded a medal and will be honored at a ceremony at the Gallo Center Wednesday evening. Those who pass the proficiency test will have it noted on their transcripts and have a seal on their diplomas. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

The Turlock Unified School District Professional Development Center was teeming on Tuesday with families and friends of students from TUSD high schools who lined up to receive their Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Seal of Multilingual Proficiency.

This seal is rewarded to students who have acquired proficiency in English and at least one other additional language. Even though this is the seal’s fifth administration, TUSD director of professional development and English learner services Kea Willett reported that there was a factor that made this particular group of students extraordinary.

According to Willett, what is special about this group of students is their birth year. With one half of the students being born in 1997 and the other half being born in 1998, these students started off their lives during a time when English was deemed the only language for California schools.

The proposition that argued this was Proposition 227, or the English Language in Public Schools Statute, and was approved by California voters in 1998. With its passing, the proposition significantly altered the methods that Limited English Proficient students were taught in California, including requiring schools to teach LEP students in classes that were taught primarily in English.

“It is very significant to have these students who were born in these years, because I am here to testify that they are absolutely proficient in English and have proven that through grades, standardized tests, and interviews,” said Willett at the Tuesday meeting, “but what makes them extraordinary is that they also come with a second language. For many of them it was their first language, for others it was a second language they learned in school.”

Students from Pitman High School, Turlock High School, and Roselawn High School were presented with the awards. With this award, students receive a note on their transcript and a seal on their diploma upon graduation.

RHS senior Maria Cardenas Palomo is the first student from her school to have received the seal, having mastered both English and Spanish.

 “I feel proud of myself because I am the first to graduate in my family and the first to receive this award at Roselawn,” said Cardenas Palomo.

PHS junior Tanner Day, having also mastered Spanish and English, echoed Cardenas Palomo’s pride.

“This award proves that we are proficient in both languages and helps us personally validate all of the hard work we have gone through to earn this seal,” said Day.

Both students, along with seal’s 25 additional recipients, were recognized locally at the Tuesday meeting. The students will also be commended at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the SCOE’s Seal Award Night at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.