Tri-Lingual Student Gaining Cultural Understanding Ahead of Career in Medicine

Great Oak High School student is one of a record-setting total of 164 students set to be honored for linguistic excellence at the 5th Annual Riverside County Seal of Multiliteracy Awards Ceremony

5th Annual Seal of Multiliteracy Awards Photo Gallery

Great Oak High School senior and recipient of the Riverside County Seal of Multiliteracy for both Spanish and Tagalog, Nicolo Villasis.

RIVERSIDE – Born in Manila, Great Oak High School senior, Nicolo Villasis, learned English as a young child in his first years of school in the Philippines as part of a family and a culture that spoke Tagalog and English. Beyond the formal training in Spanish he has since received in high school, the extent of his formal language training in Tagalog totaled one month in the first grade before moving from the Philippines to the United States in 2007.

On Tuesday, November 28, Nicolo will be honored for achieving linguistic proficiency in English, Spanish, and Tagalog as part of the Riverside County Seal of Multiliteracy Awards Ceremony—an event organized by the Riverside County Office of Education, in partnership with districts, in recognition of high levels of attained proficiency in English and at least one other world language by high school graduation.

Villasis is one of only three students in Riverside County recognized for fluency in multiple languages (English, Spanish, and Tagalog). He is also one of 164 students who will be recognized for proficiency in one of the following languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, German, Indonesian, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino and Urdu. Students from nine districts will be honored at the Riverside County Seal of Multiliteracy Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, at the Riverside Convention Center (3637 Fifth Street in Riverside, California).

Nicolo started studying Spanish as a freshman at Great Oak High School in the Temecula Valley Unified School District because he thought it would be useful while living in southern California. As he began the process, he started to recognize many of the words.

“There are many words borrowed from Spanish for Tagalog which I thought was interesting,” Nicolo said. “I had experience with some of the words and thought it was cool to see the similarities between them.

Nicolo has already passed the Advanced Placement (AP) test in Spanish with the highest score and the International Baccalaureate (IB) exam with the top score of 7 in the corresponding subject.

Beyond verb conjugations and grammatical rules from four years of academic training in Spanish, Nicolo has also embraced much of the culture surrounding the Spanish language. He enjoys listening to Reggaeton—a musical genre he describes as “party music” that originated in Puerto Rico and is influenced by hip hop and Latin American and Caribbean music.

Nicolo also reads many articles in Spanish for fun and has come to appreciate the perspectives of Latin American countries on world events beyond that of the American news media. He is also involved in the Spanish National Honors Society and the Filipino Club at Great Oak High School.

To prepare for the Riverside County Seal of Multiliteracy assessment, Nicolo was confident in his Spanish skills, but needed to brush up on the formal aspects of Tagalog.

“On the bus ride to the assessments, I was reading the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights in Tagalog to find the meaning for words I wasn’t familiar with,” Nicolo said. “I found that a humanitarian vocabulary is applicable to academic settings as well, and that helped me through the exam and assessment.”

Nicolo is applying to multiple Ivy League schools and a variety of University of California campuses where he has plans to study abroad for a semester in Spain or South America while preparing for a career in medicine—a field in which he is already earning internship skills in the health care field.

“There are lots of people I can help just by speaking another language,” Nicolo said. “Not all of the nurses can speak Spanish, so I am able to help patients—even though it is challenging to understand patients who speak quickly, use different dialects, or when patients are mumbling or medicated due to an acute situation.”

Nicolo recognizes that the value of multiliteracy extends far beyond the seal of fluency on his diploma and college applications and will have an impact on the rest of his life.

“It’s cool to connect with people through multiple languages since it is a commonality that we all share. I would like to travel and teach my children languages as well,” Nicolo said. “Because of knowing multiple languages and some of the classes I’ve taken where we look at the world and more cultures, I’ve made many new friends and connected to other cultures.”

The Seal of Multiliteracy is intended to emphasize the value of knowing multiple languages, contribute to global understanding, encourage the learning of all languages, and connect with community efforts to teach languages and culture in schools and communities.

Students stand to benefit from the Seal of Multiliteracy by the presence of the seal on the transcripts of graduating seniors that not only verifies a high level of proficiency in a second language, but serves as another accomplishment to include in college applications. Additionally, the seal attests to a highly marketable skill that is sought-after by many employers.

The thorough certification process includes an application, writing samples, and an interview. Each applicant must receive a passing score in each application category in English and his/her additional identified world language. All juniors and seniors in public and private high schools in Riverside County are eligible to apply. Among the multiple eligibility requirements, a student must be on track to complete all English/Language Arts (ELA) requirements for graduation and maintain an overall grade-point average of 2.0 or above in ELA classes required for graduation.

Riverside County Seal of Multiliteracy by the Numbers

  • 21 – Number of students who earned the Seal of Multiliteracy in its first year (2013)
  • 164 – Number of students set to receive the Seal of Multiliteracy in 2017
  • 3 – Number of students who will be awarded twice for mastery of multiple languages
    • Alyssa Mae Legaspi, Chaparral HS, Temecula Valley USD – Spanish & Tagalog
    • Deena Massis Al Rabadi, Tahquitz HS, Hemet USD – Arabic & Spanish
    • Nicolo Antonio Villasis, Great Oak HS, Temecula Valley USD – Spanish & Tagalog
  • 8 – Number of languages in which students will be recognized for proficiency
    (American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, German, Indonesian, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, and Urdu)
  • 17 – Number of Riverside County high schools with students who will receive the Seal of Multiliteracy
  • 9 – Number of districts in Riverside County with students who will receive the Seal of Multiliteracy (Banning USD, Beaumont USD, Coachella Valley USD, Hemet USD, Lake Elsinore USD, Moreno Valley USD, San Jacinto USD, Temecula Valley USD, and Val Verde USD)
  • 68 – Number of students from Moreno Valley USD who will receive the Seal of Multiliteracy (most students of any district in Riverside County)
  • 149 – Number of students whose world language of proficiency is Spanish