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First-ever GCHS students to receive NYS Seal of Biliteracy

Fifteen members of the Gates Chili High School Class of 2019 are the first in school history to earn the NYS Seal of Biliteracy on their graduation diplomas. This prestigious designation means that students have attained a high level of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages, in addition to English.


The intent of the NYSSB is to encourage the study of languages, identify high school graduates with language and biliteracy skills for employers and provide universities with additional information about applicants seeking admission. To earn the seal, students must meet criteria set by New York State as well as the district to prove language proficiency at the intermediate high level or above, as defined by the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).


“By learning a language, you gain not only another skill, but a deeper understanding of the culture,” Merrill DiPonzio said. “Taking Italian and French has influenced my career path immensely. Having two seals of biliteracy looks great on a diploma and will certainly help in my future endeavors as an international relations major.”


"If you want to have a different vision of life, learn another language for learning another language is learning another way to think about things," said Freshta Masoud. "Being bilingual is something that anyone can become with a smart and effective approach."


The NYSSB also allows students to recognize the value of foreign and native language instruction and affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society. Several students were able to earn the seal for their knowledge of their native language and English.


“As an immigrant I see this Seal of Biliteracy as a badge of honor, said Eduard Kulazhonak. “Many from the immigrant community have forsaken their native language and culture, but being able to obtain the seal means that I still have part of my native culture that I am able to contribute to the melting pot of this land.”


In 2012, New York became the second state to offer a seal of biliteracy. This is the first year Gates Chili has offered this diploma endorsement.


“We began offering the Seal of Biliteracy after working collaboratively with the Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN) as well as other local districts,” said Coordinator of Education Programs Katie Coon. “This was an opportunity for us to celebrate the diversity of our students as well as the rigor of our Languages Other Than English (LOTE) department. We look forward to increasing our number of Seal of Biliteracy recipients each year.”


In addition to the NYSSB, Gates Chili offers several other diploma endorsements, including career and technical education, business and finance, and early childhood education.


Gates Chili High School Commencement will take place on June 26, 2019 at the RIT Field House.


students who earned NYSSB

Back l-r: Ruslan Nesenchuk (Ukranian), Kynesha Milwood (Spanish), Ayanna Porter (Spanish), Eduard Kulazhonak (Russian), William Levesque (Italian), Brittany Turcotte (Spanish)

Front l-r: Julia Quan (Spanish), Bianca Cilento (Italian), Merve Duyar (Turkish), Elena Phillips (Spanish), Merrill DiPonzio (French, Italian), Freshta Masoud (Persian-Dari, Pashto) Savannah Martin (Spanish), Zara Sadki (French)

Not pictured: Cheyenne Cave (Spanish)