For Clarisse Bonna, a Denver South High School senior, being one of the first students in the state to graduate with a seal of biliteracy on her diploma means a couple of things.
For starters, it validates her journey from Congo to the United States, where she had to learn English to help her family navigate their new home. It also means when she enrolls at Front Range Community College, she’ll be able to skip beginning French.
Bonna is one of more than 100 Denver Public Schools students who will graduate proficient in English and at least one other language this year, the first graduating class eligible to receive a seal of biliteracy.
To receive the honorary seal, students like Clarisse must complete all requirements for graduation, demonstrate proficiency in English by passing one of five available tests and demonstrate proficiency in one or more languages other than English by passing a specified exam or courses of study.
Among the 22 languages spoken by DPS graduates earning the seal: Arabic, Lakota, Korean and Spanish.
This spring, the idea of a seal of biliteracy became a bit of a political hot potato. First the State Board of Education declined to pass a resolution supporting Denver and two other districts in their efforts. Then Colorado lawmakers debated a law that would codify such a diploma in state statute. The bill, which had bipartisan support, cleared the House but was killed by a Senate committee.
None of the politics matters much to Bonna, who is all smiles as she prepares to graduate. Watch what she has to say here: