Languages of Lynbrook: 17 Seniors Earn Seal of Biliteracy

Being multilingual and multiliterate are significant achievements, as learning and becoming fluent in foreign languages poses unique challenges for every individual. To students who overcome these challenges and demonstrate skills and fluency in more than one language, many schools around the U.S. provide an accolade known as the Seal of Biliteracy. According to its website (, “The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a school, district, or state in recognition of students who have studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation.” The legislatures of 48 states in the U.S. actively support the Seal of Biliteracy program. This achievement has specific significance in New York, which, as described on the New York State Education Department’s website (, is home to an incredible variety of cultures, “with students speaking over 200 languages.” New York State adopted the Seal in 2012.

At LHS, a total of 17 seniors received the Seal of Biliteracy in 2022, 12 in Spanish and five in Italian. To qualify, each student had to demonstrate his or her abilities in English as well as a foreign language. Foreign Language Department Chairperson Leonard Bruno explained that the students were required to have three points in each language. Some had earned their English points by maintaining an 85 average or above in their English classes, earning a three or higher on an English AP, and passing the English Regents exam (although if COVID-19 prohibited them from taking the Regents, they were given this point for free). 

If a student did not earn his or her English points this way, he or she gave a presentation in English. For world languages, every student gave a 5–15-minute presentation. Bruno said, “[The judges] chose the topic of a cultural comparison presentation, since they were preparing for those anyway in the AP exams that were recently taken in Spanish and in Italian.” Some of the complex topics the students presented included, “The Environmental Issues that Affect the Communities of Uruguay and the United States,” “The Impact that Advancements in Technology Have Had on Society and the Culture in Bolivia and the U.S.,” and “How Traditions, Society, and Art in Puerto Rico Compare to Those of the U.S.” 

Bruno continued, “…we, the committee that was part of the judges panel, were absolutely impressed with the level of fluency and the presentations that the kids did, particularly in world language. Having started these kids in seventh grade, and now seeing them as seniors present at this level, was eye-opening and ear-opening for us.” The presentations took place towards the end of April, after around one month of preparation. Bruno recounted that every single student who presented successfully earned the Seal of Biliteracy, “pass[ing] the assessment criteria that was needed, so they had good flow of the language, good grammar usage, [and] good vocabulary.” 

For the seniors of 2022, whose high school careers were interrupted halfway through by COVID-19, receiving the Seal of Biliteracy exhibits exceptional persistence and dedication. Extensive effort was required for them to develop increased fluency. Keziah Job, senior and recipient of the Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish, described some of her personal efforts: “I think that I put in a lot of effort when trying to become fluent, but it was more about finding things that I already was fond of doing and learning to do it a different language.” Senior James Malinka, another recipient of the Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish, shared, “I think it was definitely harder to learn Spanish during the quarantine just because there was less actual connection with the teachers.” Senior Alessia Scala, who received the Seal of Biliteracy in Italian, contributed that despite the added difficulty: “Numerous online resources provided by our teacher helped us students continue […] to strive to learn.” These students and their teachers overcame the obstacles to learn, teach, absorb, and practice the languages and earn the even-more impressive achievement of the Seal of Biliteracy. 

Receiving the Seal of Biliteracy can have a range of benefits for any student’s future. The Seal will be visible on each recipient’s high school diploma as well as his or her transcript, as outlined on the New York State Seal of Biliteracy page ( Bruno described how being biliterate can provide a significant asset to students’ credentials, such as in scholarship or job applications. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be 100% fluent,” he said, “but to be able to converse with someone and understand when someone is speaking the language, at a higher level, has to make you stand out.” 

These seniors may already have plans to use their foreign language skills in the near future. Malinka said, “I’m going to be serving a religious mission in the fall for the next two years, and I recently learned that I will be speaking Spanish. Although I didn’t originally plan to get [the Seal of Biliteracy] for that reason, I’m glad I did, because it will help me a lot as I’m trying to master Spanish.” Scala included, “I plan to use the skills I have learned to study abroad and take classes in college.” Whatever their plans are for utilizing their language skills, the biliterate students will surely find themselves in situations where such skills will prove incredibly beneficial.

Bruno has high hopes for the future of the Seal of Biliteracy, the Foreign Language Department, and Lynbrook’s language students. He hopes to make younger students aware of the many opportunities available to them in the language department, continuing to “open up the windows that kids could take advantage of.” Malinka advised aspiring language students to study and ask questions to their teachers, expressing that “it’s a worthwhile pursuit; it’s a life skill that will help you with all kinds of circumstances and different people. It’s definitely worth the effort.” Job provided some tips for young language students:“First, start as early as you can because there’s no harm in getting a head start; second, start with what you have already learned and build off of that knowledge; and third, have fun with it! There is no shame in showing off your new skills!” Scala included, “I […] advise students to not get nervous about presenting in front of the judges. It sounds intimidating, but with practice and confidence, you can do it. LHS has a supportive foreign language staff willing to help. I encourage everyone to participate in the Seal of Biliteracy. It is truly an enriching and rewarding experience.” If young students decide now that they would like to build a focus on foreign languages and one day earn the Seal of Biliteracy, the road has certainly been paved for them, and there are countless routes that they can take to pursue their personal ambitions.