Mrs. Miner, Aniston Keff, Xxaria Makely, Dr. Michelle Reed

(Originally published on June 30, 2021)

Cairo-Durham seniors Aniston Keff (center left) and Xxaria Makely (center right) earned the New York State Seal of Biliteracy, which recognizes high school seniors who demonstrate high levels of proficiency in English and at least one world language.

They are the first students at Cairo-Durham to earn the distinction since the program began in 2016. In addition to special seals on their diplomas, Aniston and Xxaria will receive medallions.

“To see the scholarship of advanced language students recognized at the state level is both personally and professionally rewarding,” said Mrs. Lori Miner, who teaches Modern Language at Cairo-Durham High School and served as a mentor during the Seal of Biliteracy process.

To be considered for the NYS Seal of Biliteracy, Aniston and Xxaria fulfilled the criteria for proficiency in English and Spanish. Seal recipients must complete upper level English and World Language courses with a minimum average of 85% and earn high scores on Regents, Advanced Placement (AP) or other accredited “Checkpoint C” exams.

Additionally, students must present a culminating project, scholarly essay or portfolio that meets the established criteria for speaking, listening, reading and writing in English and their World Language. Each component is assessed for proficiency by teachers of that subject.

Aniston and Xxaria were rated on their Spanish presentations and abilities to answer questions in Spanish by a panel of language professionals on April 30. The panel included Cairo-Durham Modern Language teachers Maria Misasi and Stefanie Molnar, who assessed the projects using provided rubrics.

“Aniston and Xxaria have worked long and hard to integrate language proficiency and cultural awareness into their education,” Mrs. Miner acknowledged. “I am honored to have been in a position to guide them to achieve this recognition from the State Education Department.”

“I learned that it is totally possible to integrate your personal interests with your education in a way that enhances your learning,” said Aniston, who likes to paint. “I didn’t think to paint something for this project until Mrs. Miner suggested it about halfway through.”

“When I started this journey at the beginning of the year, I really didn't grasp the depth that I would understand my topic or myself by its finish,” said Xxaria. “I truly believe Aniston and I have done something more with this project than simply earn our Seals.”

The NYS Seal of Biliteracy program encourages students to explore advanced language study and its academic and real-world applications.

"The Seal of Biliteracy process affords Cairo-Durham students an opportunity to see the benefits of language study and the culture-building involved in joining a global bilingual community," noted Dr. Michelle Reed, Executive Director of Learning.

Among the objectives of the NYS Seal of Biliteracy are encouraging the study of languages and affirming the value of diversity in a multilingual society. The Seal also helps identify high school graduates with multilingualism and multiliteracy skills to give them an edge with prospective employers or universities.

“I think that this will set a precedent for future students to go on this path,” Aniston said. “It’s difficult, but you can learn so much from it and it distinguishes you from others.”

“It is the goal of all educators to develop the literacy of their students,” said Mrs. Miner. “It is truly amazing when that literacy is achieved across different languages and cultures.”