Bilingual is Better

First Lady Michelle Obama

Despite living only five  miles from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I have never had the good fortune of seeing the President or First Lady in the flesh. However, yesterday I, along with the sophomore class of Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights had the pleasure of not only seeing but hearing Mrs. Obama speak on the importance of committing to your education in order to create a better future for ourselves and our country.

However, this school isn’t just any regular high school. Bell Multicultural is part of the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC) which is a unique globally themed bilingual campus that serves grades 6 through 12 and prepares all of its students for success in college and their careers.

CHEC has been recognized as one of the top schools in the area and country on the Advanced Placement Challenge Index for offering Advanced Placement to all students. It also has the only Spanish language dual immersion high school program in Washington D.C. Students can take a full bilingual program through the 12th grade. CHEC students come from over 20 countries and use this diversity to complement their globally themed curriculum. Every grade explores a global theme, which ties together their learning and builds their global awareness.

During Mrs. Obama’s opening remarks and highly motivational speech she pointed out success stories from the high school including that of Dominican-born student Roger Sánchez saying

“In fifth grade, Roger came to the United States from the Dominican Republic to live with his mother.  When Roger arrived in America, he could barely speak a word of English.  He often couldn’t understand anything his teachers were saying, so he decided to put a piece of paper in his pocket so he could jot down all the new words he heard, and then he’d ask his friends and teachers to translate for him.

He went to the library and poured through books and videos and cassettes to help teach himself English.  And after all those hours of studying and practicing, Roger arrived here at Bell ready to thrive.  And every day, he put the same effort into his classes that he put into learning English.  He joined the baseball, the football teams.  He helped found your Global Kids Club so that students could discuss world issues.  And last spring, he graduated with nearly a 4.0 GPA.”

Following her remarks, Mrs. Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Bell alum Menbere sat on a comfy sofa with BET moderator Jeff Johnson and opened the floor up for  discussion and a Q&A session with the 10th-grade class at CHEC who represent the college Class of 2020.  The First Lady made it clear that she want to “hear your story, your questions your concerns.” Encouraging students to talk.

The school’s goal is to have 100% of students graduate with plans for higher education. In 2012, 82% of students went on to college and they are working towards increasing that number year on year.

Truthfully, I was dying to ask a question. I didn’t get to, but I wanted to get the bilingual aspect of success in there. Especially because we were at such a unique educational setting. I would have asked her and Secretary Duncan talk about research showing how being bilingual helps you get ahead in education and life and to discuss how these particular bilingual high school students place (test wise) among other monolingual high school students.

And in case you were wondering, the First Lady looked immaculate as always! If you’d like to know more about what she wore, her look and how the rest of the day went, then please see Very Busy Mamá.

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