(St. Joseph, Mo) There are only 31 states in the country that have a Biliteracy Certification Program within their district schools. As of last school year, Missouri is one of them and they've successfully had 20 students earn 21 certifications. One student earned two.
To be awarded the bi-literacy certification seal, students are tested by the state on their reading, writing, and speech proficiency in their world language of choice. In the St. Joseph School District, students earned seals in Spanish or French.
Aumn Mohammad, like many students in the program, is using her seal as stepping stone for her future. Mohammad wants to be a surgeon, and earning this certification will not only help her stand out when it comes time to apply for medical school after attending UMKC, but also help her while she is in her career.
“I want to make healthcare accessible to everyone through language,” said Mohammad. “There are more immigrants coming to America and it’s hard enough talking to a professional about your health let a lone when you can’t understand what they’re saying.”
Mohammad is actually proficient in five languages; English, Urdu, Hinidkgo, and Punjabi from childhood, and now French after aggressively studying the language at Central High School under Corinne Russell. Russell has been teaching French with the St. Joseph School District for the past 11 years and has been closely following the Biliteracy Certification Program since its beginnings in California.
Russell championed for the program to start in the district the moment Missouri became one of the now 31 states to offer the national program.
“From the time I heard about the program I knew we had to make sure to be ready for when the opportunity came it would not leave us behind,” Russell affirmed. “A world language is not required in the district to graduate and sometimes because it is an elective some think it is not as important as it is.”
Now, the district has 20 students who bare a seal from the state that show how important it is. Something Russell sees being even more necessary for more students.
“In today’s world where it's global where companies hire and move and people travel a lot, it is essential to know one language.”
After this year’s success the program will continue in the district. Out of the 234 seals awarded in the state for the 2017-2018 school year, 21 of the certifications were awarded in the St. Joseph School District.