“Being a dual-language speaker has given me the courage to go out of my comfort zone to travel far away from home.” — Calla Horan, senior, DSA
Dear DPS Community,
More than 400 high school seniors from schools across the city gathered Wednesday at George Washington High School to receive one of our highest honors: the Seal of Biliteracy. We award the Seal of Biliteracy to honor graduating seniors who are proficient in more than one language, and each senior will wear a gold cord with their caps and gowns as they officially graduate in the coming weeks.
For these students, the Seal of Biliteracy represents greater professional opportunities in an increasingly global economy. We also know the personal benefits are equally important. Being bilingual offers these young leaders more opportunities to learn about other cultures and societies outside of our own and, in so doing, bring us all a little closer together.
“Being a dual-language speaker has given me the courage to go out of my comfort zone to travel far away from home,” said Calla Horan, a senior at Denver School of the Arts proficient in English and Spanish, “and it has given me the steps to become a global citizen.”
Seal recipients represent proficiency in English and 14 languages, from Spanish, Arabic and French to Chinese, Mongolian and Kiziwgua.
“When I heard about the Seal, it made me want to help my language from becoming extinct,” said Collegiate Prep Academy senior Sahra Mberwa, who is proficient in English and Kiziwgua, spoken in Somalia. “By speaking this language, I can help keep my language, history and culture alive.”
Research shows learning a second language improves your native language skills. “I think part of my love for Spanish comes from the opportunity it gives me to stretch my mind,” said East High School senior Peter Krumholz. “Speaking Spanish has allowed me to exercise my brain and think about words more carefully and be more expressive.”
For many students, the Seal is an incentive to build on a language they’ve learned from their parents, their “heritage” language, and earn credit for it. Years ago, in many school districts, speaking a language other than English was considered a deficit. In DPS today, we celebrate developing fluency in heritage languages and the opportunities it creates for our students.
At Lincoln High School, for example, heritage Spanish speakers have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement Spanish as ninth graders. And the school is developing an innovative approach where those students can then take college-level Spanish courses in grades 10, 11 and 12 — with the goal of earning the equivalent of a college minor in Spanish when they graduate high school.
Three generations of one DPS family attended Wednesday’s ceremony: Esther Romero, a retired elementary bilingual Spanish teacher, her daughter Diane Romero-Campbell and granddaughter Sofia Romero-Campbell.
For Esther, the celebration was especially poignant. She was among the founding members of the Congress of Hispanic Educators, known as CHE, which sued Denver Public Schools in the 1970s seeking better instruction for English language learners.
This week, she watched as her granddaughter, a senior at the Denver Center of International Studies at Baker, earned not one but two Seals of Biliteracy — one for Spanish and one for Mandarin Chinese.
“I’m very proud,” Esther said. “We are honoring the languages the kids are bringing.”
Jaz, a sophomore at Abraham Lincoln High School, was in a tough place last year.
“My motivation just went down, and I ended up giving up and nearly dropping out,” she said.
Everything changed when she met Leslie, a senior at Lincoln and her peer mentor. They connected through the YESS (Youth Empowerment Support Services) Institute, a nonprofit organization impacting more than 350 DPS middle and high school students.
Watch this DPS Features video showing how mentorships like Jaz and Leslie’s help motivate at-risk students to stay in school.
During the last half-century, the greenhouse at John F. Kennedy High School had become less of a learning space and more of a place to empty out fish tanks. But thanks to a partnership with professional engineers, students were able to renovate the 51-year-old greenhouse and get it ready to bloom with its intended purpose once again.
Nine engineers from McKinstry lent their time, expertise and funds to complete the project. Working with experienced professionals, JFK students conducted an assessment and audit of the greenhouse, determined opportunities for improvement and led the execution of the enhancements. The one-to-one teams worked for six months — and this week, they unveiled the finished renovation, having replaced outdated equipment and broken windows with a state-of-the-art solar-powered exhaust fan, rainwater collection system and smart controls.
The renovation project at John F. Kennedy is part of DPS’ CareerConnect, a DPS-wide initiative that provides hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for more than 18,000 students through partnerships with more than 270 companies in Denver.
Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall paid a special visit to Cheltenham Elementary students Monday, where he read stories, gave shout-outs to students with perfect attendance and even teased a Raiders fan in the audience about the importance of supporting your local team.
The visit was arranged by Cheltenham community liaison Yuri Frias, teacher Lorraine Ortiz and Marshall’s mom Barbara as part of “Get Caught Reading” week. Cheltenham’s Dean of Fun Mike Cammilleri emceed the festivities.
After his visit, Marshall posted on Instagram about the fun he had that day: ” I was fortunate enough to read ‘How to get a girlfriend’ to the students at Cheltenham yesterday. The whole school had great energy! I had a great time, and took notes from the book as well lol.”
The Denver Broncos also shared photos of his visit to Cheltenham on their blog, The Squeeze. See more photos and videos on Cheltenham’s Facebook page, as well as pictures from school visits by Bronco’s safety Justin Simmons and Miles the Mascot.
Thank you, Brandon Marshall, for inspiring the students (and staff) at Cheltenham Elementary!