This high school in Fresno had the most ‘linguistically gifted’ students in the district

Over 100 Edison High School seniors were honored with the State Seal of Biliteracy for being “linguistically gifted,” as Deputy Superintendent Misty Her called it.

“You will be able to build bridges into other cultures and other communities,” she said to the families packed in Edison’s gym for Thursday’s ceremony, “in a way that other people who only speak English will not have.”

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Students who receive the seal must show proficiency in a language other than English through multiple criteria, including completing a minimum number of course units in world languages and passing both oral and written assessments, Edison Principal Joey Munoz said in an interview with The Bee’s Education Lab.

More students at Edison 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 thought, the diversity of the student body. I think that’s what embodies the actual celebration of earning the Seal of Biliteracy.”

The students’ multilingual skills took center stage Thursday night as speakers wove in and out of two – or sometimes three – languages in remarks to the crowd.

Edison senior Kou Her, who took Hmong heritage classes to expand her literacy in her family’s native language, encouraged the crowd to reap the rewards of learning more than one language.

“After I had gone through the Hmong program,” she said in a speech that incorporated both English and Hmong, “I felt really confident in myself, and I was better able to express myself.”

Students who spoke with the Ed Lab said they plan to continue to use their second and/or third languages in college.

Thomas Stewart, another senior at Edison who plans to attend Columbia University in New York after graduation, received the Seal of Biliteracy for Spanish. He said he’s interested in studying creative writing and journalism – and thinks Spanish will come in handy.

“Obviously, not everybody in the world speaks English. So, to be able to uncover different types of stories that you may only be able to hear in Spanish,” he said, “or any other language is definitely a useful tool.”

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Shaya Schultz, who was also honored with the seal Thursday night for being trilingual in English, Spanish, and French, said she hopes to study abroad and use her language skills.

Soon, Fresno Unified will offer even more opportunities to study languages.

The district is adding new school sites to the Spanish and Hmong dual immersion programs next year. After-school programs in Punjabi, Mixtec, Arabic, Spanish, and Hmong will come to multiple schools over the next three years.

The Education Lab is a local journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn about The Bee’s Education Lab at its website.

Graduates applaud as Edison High School honors its 130 graduating seniors who have earned the California Seal of Biliteracy during a ceremony Thursday, May 18, 2023 in Fresno.
Graduates applaud as Edison High School honors its 130 graduating seniors who have earned the California Seal of Biliteracy during a ceremony Thursday, May 18, 2023 in Fresno.