More than 100 Edison High School seniors were awarded the state seal of bilingualism for being “linguistically gifted,” as assistant superintendent Misty Haar calls them.
“They’ll be able to build bridges to other cultures and other communities,” he told families packing Edison Gym for Thursday’s ceremony, “in a way other people who speak only English can’t.”
To receive the seal, students must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English through several criteria, including completing a minimum number of course units in world languages and passing oral and written assessments, Edison’s principal Joy Munoz said in an interview with the Bee Education Laboratory.
More Edison students were honored this year than any other Fresno Unified High School.
“I think what’s special about Edison,” Munoz said, “is the diversity. The diversity of ideas, the diversity of the student body. I think that’s the real celebration of earning the stamp of bilingualism.”
The students’ multilingual abilities took center stage Thursday night, as speakers spoke two or three languages while addressing the crowd.
Edison Sr. Kou Herr, who took Hmong heritage classes to further his bilingualism in his family’s native language, encouraged the crowd to reap the rewards of learning more than one language.
“After going through the Hmong program,” she said in a speech that included both English and Hmong, “I felt a lot more confident in myself and was able to express myself better.”
Students Ed Lab spoke with said they plan to continue using their second and/or third language in college.
Thomas Stewart, another Edison senior who plans to attend Columbia University in New York after graduation, received the Seal of Bilingualism in Spanish. He said he is interested in studying creative writing and journalism, and thinks Spanish will be very useful.
“Obviously, not everyone speaks English. So being able to discover a variety of stories that you might only hear in Spanish,” he said, “or another language, is definitely a useful tool.”
Shaya Schultz, who was awarded the Seal of Honor Thursday night for being trilingual in English, Spanish and French, said she looks forward to studying abroad and putting her language skills to use.
Soon, Fresno will offer even more opportunities to study unified languages.
The district will add new schools in the Spanish and Hmong dual immersion programs next year. After-school programs in Punjabi, Mixtec, Arabic, Spanish and Hmong will arrive in many schools over the next three years.
The Education Lab is a local journalism initiative that highlights educational issues important to the progress of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. More information about the Bee Education Lab at their website.
Graduation appreciation as Edison High School honors 130 seniors who earned the California Seal of Bilingualism during a ceremony Thursday, May 18, 2023, in Fresno.