The first cohort of dual-language students are set to graduate this school year. Many are seen here from left to right: (back) Fernando Duran, Yahaira Perez, Camron Miller, Yoliliztly Palacios,Jasmine Rodriguez, Edwin Hernandez. (Front) Former Garfield Principal Debbie Barrett, Jazely Barrera, Tania Gonzalez, Cindi Palacios, Alison Tran, Lizette Ibarra, Ashley Ali, and Memorial Principal Dr. Angela Stallings.
Jazely Barrera, dual-language senior, proudly shows off a certificate presented to students and parents involved in the program.
In June, Pasadena ISD will witness history as the first group of dual-language students graduate from Pasadena Memorial High School, signifying the end of a 12-year journey.
Pasadena ISD established the dual-language program for both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students. The goal is for students to become proficient in both languages while helping them excel academically.
The Office of Special Programs hosted a ceremony to honor the 21 seniors and recognize parents for their dedication to the program, March 1.
Parents were presented with certificates and the graduating seniors received patches featuring the program’s logo. They will also receive Velasquez Press Bi-literacy Medals, given to students proficient in two or more languages, and green cords to wear at graduation.
“They chose this color because green is the color of money and we are confident that all of our dual language graduates will become successful professionals in our community,” said Suzy Caballero, the district dual-language coordinator said.
When students received their patches, they delivered a short speech in both languages about the success of the program.
As an aspiring physician and dual-language senior, Alison Tran, who speaks Vietnamese, Spanish and English, plans to use her tri-lingual skills to communicate with patients.
“I feel honored to be a guinea pig as part of the first class of dual-language graduates,” Tran said. “I think this program will be beneficial for me since I plan to be a doctor in the community and Houston has a majority of Spanish speakers. I think knowing Spanish will help out the communication both ways and make it easier to handle business.”
“The dual-language program has allowed me to build strong relationships with my friends – I would call them my siblings,” Lizette Ibarra, a dual language senior said.
Garfield Elementary pioneered the program under the direction of former principal Debbie Barrett. Students started at Garfield and continued together at Milstead, Miller and, Memorial. Half of the instruction was in English and the other was in Spanish.
“We visited a lot of school districts in state and out of state, studied research, all of which indicated that students in bi-lingual and dual language programs outperform students in every subject,” said Gloria Gallegos, associate superintendent of Special Programs. “We wanted that same outcome for our students.”
"It took a long time but once it started it took off and now they're graduating," Barrett said.
The ceremony gave faculty members and counselors who have been part of the program since the beginning, an opportunity to reconnect with students – many of whom had not seen each other in over 10 years – and witness how far they have come.
“They are my babies,” said Cherrie Hanson, former Garfield Elementary teacher. “When Allison Tran messaged me and asked me to come to this, I thought, ‘wow,’ I’ve known her since second grade. I know you all think these teachers have had an impact on you, but you have had such an impact on me.”
A former dual-language teacher at Miller Intermediate, Jacquelyn Trejo, whose daughter has started the program at Bush, thanked dual-language coordinators and teachers, as she wiped tears from her face.
“Your drive, your motivation, your dedication to the program just transformed what ESL and dual language means to me," Trejo said. "You guys are the innovators for that.”
The dual-language program has expanded to Bailey, Bush, Fisher, Garfield, and Pomeroy Elementary Schools and Kendrick Middle. Over 1,500 students have participated in the program.
For more information, visit the program’s website: https://www1.pasadenaisd.org/cms/one.aspx?pageId=237074
Jacquelyn Trejo talks about the benefits of the dual-language program.
Cherrie Hanson, formerly a teacher at Garfield, reflects on her days as a second grade dual language teacher.
Gloria Gallegos, associate superintendent of Special Programs talks to attendees about the dual-language program.
Alison Tran and her family enjoy hearing the stories about the old days when she was at Garfield.