Local high school students excel in bi-literacy

RENO, Nev (KOLO) Students try to immerse themselves in Spanish in Kim Gerlach’s class at Hug High.

Even though Marahya Hoyos speaks Spanish at her home, she says taking honors Spanish at Hug opened up a whole new heritage.

“I want to minor in Spanish,” Marahya says as to what she’ll do when she gets into college. “Because I know in the career I'm going in social work, there will be more job opportunities because they use it a lot,” she says.

Hoyos recently passed a bi-literacy exam in Spanish and will receive her diploma with an official stamp.

“Knowing what it actually means, I feel it means a lot to me,” says Gloria Cuevas, another Hug High senior.

Like Marahya, Gloria wanted to get special accreditation in bi-literacy.

She says she speaks Spanish at home, but being able to properly speak the language, write it, and understand a conversation was a learning curve.

70% of students at Hug are Hispanic. Teacher Kim Gerlach tries to prepare the students for all different aspects of the bi-literacy test which can take a big portion of the school year. She says enrollment in the bi-literacy program isn't high as you might think.

That's because while her students have no fear of speaking Spanish, all that is involved in the Spanish Language and earning a bi-literacy certificate is another story.

“But when we talk about reading and writing, we are making a huge jump from where many of our students come in to class and where they end,” says Gerlach.

Then there are students who have never taken Spanish, but nevertheless excel in it. That's the case with Kate Begonia.

She came to Hug High just two years ago from the Philippines and will graduate with honors and a bi-literacy certificate. She says she sees another benefit to the program.

“Even like at school you get to connect with more people because a lot of people in school already speak Spanish as well,” says Kate.

In June, when Hug High School seniors graduate, approximately 50 of them will have the bi-literacy seal on their diplomas.