Of the Saline High School Class of 2019 there were 24 students who graduated with the distinction of the state of Michigan Biliteracy Seal.
Michigan is one of 27 states and the District of Columbia to offer the seal, which originated in California.
Students who earn the seal on their diploma must, in addition to meeting general graduation requirements for a high school diploma, must demonstrate "intermediate high" proficiency on world language assessments.
Saline High School Spanish Language teacher and World Language Program head Beth Gregones and Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Steve Laatsch spoke last week about the value of the program to the students and the world at large before calling up a group of seal recipients to be recognized before the SAS Board of Education.
"In terms of the benefit of the seal, there are three primary points," Laatsch explained. "The first is that it encourages the study of world languages and the embracing of native and heritage languages. Secondly, employers look at this as 'here's a student who has strong language abilities and therefore potentially a better employee and being able to reach more people.' And finally the seal serves as an additional tool for colleges and universities to recognize these abilities for admission and placement."
Gregones mentioned that one of the 24 students, Brittany Bryant, actually qualified for two seals simultaneously.
The state's page for the seal adds some statistical and polling data that should entice more students to attempt their own seal in the coming years. A cited survey of U.S. employers found that 66 percent reported valuing foreign language skills in the hiring process and 41 percent claimed to give preference in hiring to multilingual candidates.
International trade in Michigan grew 17 percent between 2004 and 2014 at the same time that total employment fell 1 percent, according to the state's Bilingual Seal page, indicating that even during times of contraction of the overall state economy and job market the space where bilingualism is most valuable to job-seekers bucks that trend and continues growing.
Those who seek to attain a seal can look forward to beginning testing the second semester of junior year of high school and completing the testing first semester of senior year. The final testing for the 24 students awarded in Saline this year was four hours long, Gregones said.
Laatsch added that the seal fits in nicely with the SAS Compass concept.
"If you look at what we talk about when we say we like globally connected students, it talks about students are globally connected when they demonstrate their understanding of the complexities of cultures and global issues, they see viewpoints beyond their own, and positively impact the wold around them ... all of these students have been doing that now with the Seal of Biliteracy," he concluded.
This year's recipients are as follows: