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Students in 2019-22 graduating classes get certificates for speaking multiple languages.

The power of language was celebrated last week in Lake Oswego's first annual Seal of Biliteracy Celebration.

On Thursday, May 19, 144 current and former students of the Lake Oswego School District received certificates for speaking two or more languages. The Oregon State Biliteracy Seal is an award given by a school district in recognition of students who have learned two or more languages at a proficient level, according to instructional coach Julie Pacheco-Toye. The honor is intended to recognize and celebrate the native languages of students, as well as the programs that teach other languages to English-speaking students.

The seal program was initiated in LOSD in 2019 by Pacheco-Toye, but because of COVID-19, the school district was unable to formally recognize students in a celebration. During this year's event, students from the 2019 through 2022 graduating classes received their seals, as well as a certificate. The 42 graduates this year will receive a diploma with an official seal.

Languages spoken included: English, Spanish, Polish, German, French, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin Chinese. Three students earned the Seal of Multiliteracy, a new certificate that celebrates students who are proficient in three or more languages.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Lake Oswego School Districts students received certificates for speaking two or more languages.

Families and students crowded the Palisades World Language School auditorium to watch the ceremony, which featured a performance by Palisades kindergartners and a speech from an alum of the biliteracy program.

"Furthering my education in Spanish was really an invaluable experience for me. As a Filipino Mestizo, connecting with the Spanish language has also allowed me to connect more with my heritage and my family. I've been able to read my country's history and the literary works (by our) our national heroes in its original writing. That has really been something that I value a lot," said Deepak Kaushal, a Lakeridge alum who earned a seal for Spanish and French in 2020.

The importance of language was noted several times during the evening. During her speech, Pacheco-Toye asked the crowd, "Can languages change the world?"

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Julie Pacheco-Toye shared the importance of language and how it can make the world a better place.

"I believe that communication is the only way we will solve the problems in this world," she said. "Remember always that language isn't just a tool. It is our legacy as human beings, and it's our way of conveying what it means to be a human being from any culture, speaking any language. … So I hope you will go out and heal the world with your languages."

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