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Turlock students honored with State Seal of Biliteracy
biliteracy seal
Stanislaus County Board of Education member Alice Pollard, Turlock High student John Betbabanta (Assyrian), Pitman High student Elsin NazarJamalabad (Farsi) and Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall pause for a picture at the State Seal of Biliteracy Award night in Modesto Tuesday night (Photo contributed).

One of the many assets of the Central Valley of California is the diversity of its population, made evident by the vast array of citizens who represent international cultures and speak a variety of languages. On Tuesday night, the Stanislaus County of Education applauded students with mastery in multiple languages at the State Seal of Biliteracy Awards.

Superintendent Scott Kuykendall welcomed the students and their families to the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, a group that included students from Ceres Unified, Denair Unified, Hughson Unified Newman-Crows landing Unified, Patterson Unified, Riverbank Unified, Turlock Unified and Waterford Unified school districts.

Student speakers included John Betbabanta of Turlock High School (Assyrian) and Elsin Nazarjamalabad of Pitman High School (Farsi). 

“Language is a key that unlocks many doors. In a world that has many locked doors, it’s an advantage like no other,” said Betbabanta, who will be attending UC Merced next year to study Environmental Engineering in hopes to find a solution to solve the water crisis in California.

Elsin Nazarjamalabad immigrated to the United States three years ago from Iran and didn’t speak a word of English when he arrived. Now, English is his fifth language.

“I attended Pitman High School and with the support of my teachers and family members, I learned to speak English,” said Elsin. “I don’t understand why kids complain about everything here. Try living in a third world country like Iran for three days, and you will appreciate living in the best country in the world.”

Other student speakers were Alondra Sandoval, Denair High School (Spanish), Zayuki Perez, Ceres High School (Spanish) and Monica Rivera, Orestimba High School (Spanish). Each student expressed gratitude for their parents’ sacrifice and support.

“These students know adversity and resilience,” said Carmen Morad, Assessor and interviewer for the Assyrian and Farsi language for the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Morad also serves on the city of Turlock and Stanislaus State University Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion.

The State Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by the State of California in partnership with county offices and local school districts. It recognizes and honors student attainment of proficiency in English and at least one other world language by high school graduation.  Appearing on the transcript of the graduating senior, the State Seal of Biliteracy serves to verify a student’s linguistic proficiencies to potential employers and interested colleges.

Stanislaus County was the first county office to adopt this program in the nation since it was implemented ten years ago; 1,682 students have received the Seal of Biliteracy in 32 world languages. Students who have received the State Seal may note this accomplishment when they apply for colleges, scholarships and jobs. Employers are always looking for people who can reach across language and culture barriers so students who are proficient in multiple languages become highly attractive to future employers and college admissions offices.