Massachusetts high school seniors in the class of 2019 are the first ever to be eligible for a Seal of Biliteracy, part of the state's sweeping bilingual education revamp two years ago.
To receive the honor, seniors need to speak and understand two languages, and be proficient in reading and writing. Recipients will be native and non-native English speakers.
In Holyoke, Massachusetts, where 10 students will receive the award this week, Spanish is the first language for many students in the district.
That wasn't seen as favorably in 2002, when the state's bilingual education curriculum was taught in "English only," said Annie Day, Holyoke's ESL and bilingual education director.
With the 2017 law, Day said being proficient in another language is now seen as a bonus for students.
"The competitive edge it gives them as they enter the global workforce is unbelievable," Day said. "The fact that Massachusetts has decided bilingual education is legal again [is] wonderful."
Districts "volunteer" to award students the seal upon graduation.
Holyoke is one of 76 districts in the state awarding Seals of Biliteracy. Other western Massachusetts districts doing likewise are Springfield, Hadley and Lee.