Recognizing the achievement of language learning

It can be very difficult for those who go about their days with just one language to understand the challenges involved for those who must regularly deal with more than one. In a place like Meriden it’s more common to handle more than one language, and highlighting experience is one way of helping everyone understand the challenges involved.

That’s why the Dual Language Top Scholars, a new award, is important. “This isn’t just an award,” said Vianna Alcantara. “It shows appreciation for those whose first language isn’t English. We didn’t have it easy and this is a win for everyone who is in the bilingual program.”

Alcantara, who will graduate from Meriden’s Platt High School on June 15, is one of four students to win the award. The others are fellow Platt student Jael Ponce Alicea and Maloney High seniors Jenesse Gonzalez and Camila Guerrero Montero.

The award is from Project Excel, a nonprofit founded in 1983 by the Meriden Federation of Teachers. As the Record-Journal’s Crystal Elescano reported, the project started small then grew to include fifth graders, middle school students and high school students.

The Dual Language awards go to the top two students at each high school who are English language students.

“I remember one time a student told me something I would never forget,” said Martha-Anne Noonan, Project Excel president. “She said ‘if I could’ve done high school in my native language, then I would’ve been a top 10 student’ and that made me realize that other students in her position must have felt the same way.”

The new award now recognizes an important achievement: Doing well in school while learning a new language. “Being from the Dominican Republic, it was hard to learn a language while also trying to get good grades,” said Alcantara.

These students deserve to be recognized, and Meriden’s school district is a winner here, too, for recognizing the challenge and creating an environment where success can be achieved.

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