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Holtville Unified School District proves Dual Language Program is an advantage

High school valedictorian is a prime example

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - They say the more languages you can speak, the more ways you’re able to think. With the ability, comes a likelihood of outperforming classmates. 

And that certainly appears to be the case for two of Holtville High School’s 2021 graduates whom have been enrolled in Holtville Unified School District’s Dual Language Program since kindergarten.

Having persevered in their studies throughout the many years and an unexpected pandemic, a class of 127 students graduate Thursday evening. Nearly 12% of the those were enrolled in the Dual Language Program. 

We had a chance to speak with Abigail (Abby) Garewal and Melanie Lopez, the two overachievers whose success is undoubtedly influenced by their enrollment in the equally divided English-Spanish program. 

Heading to the University of California Berkley this Fall, Lopez definitely has experience multitasking.

Reaching onto her decorations, Lopez gleams, "This is my [Associated Student Body] ASB sash, and this year- Well, I've been in ASB four years of high school, but this year, I'm the Commissioner of Publicity. This is my Migrant Speech and Debate sash. I've been a Migrant Speech and Debate participant for six years. This year I was able to win first place in the prepared and extemporaneous. So that, that was kind of cool to end my journey with Migrant Speech and Debate." Continuing, "This is my [Future Farmers of America] FFA one. I've been a four year member and currently just retired as the chapter president. This is my [California Scholarship Federation] one. I'm a life member now. And then this is just my Dual Language [Program]."

Similar to her classmate, Garewal frequently involved herself in extracurricular activities, she also heads to one of our nation’s best institutions: Stanford University.

"This one is for ASB. Like Melanie, I've been in ASB all four years, and this year I was president. This one is for CSF, the California Scholarship Federation, I'm a life member. This one is for the Dual Language [Program] High Honors, which is, shows that I've done the completion of the Dual Language Program from kindergarten. I've taken both the [Advanced Placement] AP Spanish Language and AP Spanish Literature exam," explains Garewal. "And this one is for cheerleading. I was- this was my first year doing cheer, so I got a sash. I forgot my Girl's State one at home. But that one's just for being apart of the California Girl's State the summer of 2019."

And not only did these young woman balance club involvement, they also had to complete daily coursework in both languages. Garewal admits it was difficult at first, but it’s really all they’ve ever known.

She professes, "They say, like, when you're born without a limb, that's all you know. So, it's not difficult you. That's kind of how it was for us. That's just- we started school with that work, work ethic. So, I think for us it was a little less difficult; and it did teach us, ya know, a good work ethic and allowed us to prepare for success in our later life."

And it all began 12 years ago, here, at Emmett S. Finley Elementary School when faculty reinvented the Dual Language Program after a previous version fell through. 

Finley Elementary is the only school in the Imperial Valley that has also received the California Distinguished School recognition twice in the last four years. Much of Finley's success can be directly linked to the dual language students’ test scores and high achievement.

According to school faculty, this undeniable correlation is visible at an early age. Dual-language teacher Chris Marcuson once taught the young ladies whom we spoke with earlier.

Referencing Lopez and Garewal, Marcuson recalls, "I had those kids in second grade because I got moved to fifth grade later; but to see them from second grade, and now they're graduating high school." He expresses, "Some sent me their cards from graduation; and it's just amazing! And so- it's really a great feeling to see. And some of these kids you could tell they were headed to great things; even from second grade, and you could just see them blossoming."

Also a teacher in the Dual Language Program, Fernando Acosta has personally observed the differences between students enrolled, and not enrolled in the program.

"I've been blessed that I taught in traditional and dual classrooms, and I've noticed that students in the dual program usually perform a little higher," Acosta explains. "You can- you can that in tests, quarterly tests that we give them, and the scores, state test scores."

Thursday morning, a drive-thru ceremony celebrated a fifth grade class traveling down a biliterate path similar to Melanie and Abby. 

At just 12 years old, Celina Garcia appreciates the “50/50” style of class structure and exposure to both teachers.

Finley Elementary also choose to recognize  Celina as a Migrant Speech Recipient Award Winner. She leaves the fifth grade as an honor student, with potential for an extraordinary future.

Holtville High School Graduation:

Commencements / Imperial Education / News
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Caleb J. Fernández

Upon earning his Bachelors degree from The Pennsylvania State University in Advertising/Public Relations, Caleb went straight to New York City where he learned the necessities of production assistance, photography and art direction.

As a native of the Imperial Valley, Caleb looks forward to serving the KYMA/KECY-TV team in one of the most rewarding ways: by giving back to the Southwest Desert community which helped shape him.

Please reach out via email at caleb.fernandez@kecytv.com if you’re interested in collaborating!

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