| Alina Zdebska knew only four words of English as an 8-year-old third-grader experiencing her first day of school in Solvay after moving here from the Ukraine.
“I don’t speak English,” she kept saying, over and over, as she stood inside the elementary school, scared and confused in a strange building with no idea where to go.
On May 30, nearly a decade later, Zdebska recounted that story as salutatorian of Solvay High School.
She and five of her classmates were recognized with a very distinct honor at an annual awards ceremony: The New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB), which will be affixed to their high school diplomas. The seal recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing in one or more languages.
According to the New York State Education Department, the seal has many purposes: to encourage the study of languages; to identify
|high school graduates with language and biliteracy skills for employers; to provide universities with additional information about applicants; to prepare students 21st century skills; to recognize the value of foreign and native language instruction in schools; and to affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society.
The awards at Solvay High School were presented May 30 by Tanya Amodio-Kovacs, an associate with the state Education Department’s Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL), and Tanya Rosado-Barringer, coordinator of the Midstate Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN), which is housed under OCM BOCES. All six students who received the award attend Solvay High School.
The recipients (in the photo, from left to right) were Alina Zdebska, Michael Tomoroksa, Angela Romanchuk, Viktoriya Piso, Diana Osiv and Arthur Germakovski, who all attend Solvay High School. Arthur speaks English and Russian; the others speak English and Ukrainian.