HHS Class of 2023 will be the First to Receive Seal of Biliteracy
By Omar Thabet
A few months ago, The Yemeni American News wrote a story about how this year’s graduating class at Hamtramck High School will be able first ever to receive the seal of biliteracy from the Michigan Department of Education.
The Michigan Seal of Biliteracy recognizes high school graduates who exhibit language proficiency in English and at least one additional world language. Eligible senior students from Hamtramck High School and Horizon High School may be awarded the seal through language assessments or with evidence of overseas schooling in another language other than English.
In the article, Hamtramck Public Schools ELD District Specialist Anne Clemente said this recognition is important because it celebrates multilingualism that is highly prevalent in the student population and the community which Hamtramck Public Schools serves.
“While students can be awarded recognition for academic achievements in English, such as for Honor Roll and GPA, the Seal of Biliteracy is specific to acknowledge literacy skills in another language other than English,” Clemente said. “HPS strongly believes that multilingualism is an asset and this opportunity to participate in the Michigan Seal of Biliteracy can honor these students and their language expertise.”
Mirjana Maros, who is the head of the ELD at Hamtramck Public Schools, is excited for the students to be recognized with this seal.
When asked what are the positive benefits for the students to receive this seal, Maros said, “The Michigan Seal of Biliteracy encourages students to learn world languages and to maintain their native and heritage languages.”
Maros then added, “The students feel valued and recognized because the seal is an asset that opens many doors to different job opportunities and serves as an additional tool for colleges and universities for admission, placement, scholarships, and language courses credit.”
There are still some challenges for students to receive the seal.
Maros mentioned, “The biggest challenge is that the majority of students do not feel confident in their writing skills and that discourages them from applying for the Seal of Biliteracy. Some of them hesitate to try and take the test. They feel strong about their speaking and reading skills, but not as much in their writing skills. Some students just need a little additional encouragement to give it a chance and try and they usually pass the test.”
Maros then added, “Another challenge is the cost of the test. In Hamtramck Public Schools, the entire cost of the test is covered by the district, so students interested in pursuing the Seal of Biliteracy can do it for free. They are granted a chance to retake the test if they express a wish to do so.”
One of the students who will be receiving the seal is senior Asem Algahim. Asem said he feels honored and proud to be apart of the first class in HHS history to receive the seal.
When Asem was asked how does he think this seal will help him in college, he said, “I feel that this seal will help me with having an official certificate to show that I speak another language. I can add this to my future job applications. It can provide many ways to identify myself as a person who has skills in multiple languages and hopefully this will benefit me in my future.”
The Michigan Seal of Biliteracy offers multiple benefits. After approval, students will receive official recognition from the Michigan Department of Education for their bilingualism through a certificate and a letter from the State Superintendent and the Office of Bilingual Education. A goal seal will also be applied to the student’s diploma.
This official recognition of biliteracy can be used on college applications, as well as on resumes. It can provide potential future employers with a clear indicator and way of identifying people with bilingual abilities. Additionally, the Seal of Biliteracy can prepare students with 21st-century skills that will benefit them throughout their adult life.
When we asked Maros how does this seal celebrate diversity and inclusion within the district, she said, “This is global era and the ability to communicate across borders prepares students to be citizens of the world at large and acquire readiness for 21st century workforce opportunities. It is not only a reward, it is a way for them to feel proud and accomplished to know two or more languages and help others achieve the same.”
According to Maros, Seal recipients will be recognized with the award during their district’s Senior Honors Night on May 30th, 2023 at the Hamtramck High School Auditorium.
HHS currently have 40 students who met the criteria for this award. They will receive an official letter from the State Superintendent, official prepopulated certificate, and a gold foil seal. Additionally, they will receive the medals.
When asked how can they encourage future students to receive the seal, Maros said, “Student participation in Seal of Biliteracy is voluntary. Students are presented with an overview of what the Seal of Biliteracy is and how it can help them in their future endeavors. They decide to pursue it because they are aware of its benefits as well as it gives them a sense of pride among their peers for being proficient in two or more languages.”
Asem them added, “I would totally recommend to all the following seniors next year to receive the seal. If you have any other language that you are proficient in, then why not? Give it a try!”