Hispanic Heritage Month: How language in school is embracing culture

"Knowing two languages, you are now able to contribute to the world double. And I think that really is a pretty amazing story to tell."


The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is rich with Native American, Mexican and Spanish culture. A big part of the culture is the language.


Throughout New Mexico's history, speaking Spanish was frowned upon. Now it's embraced through dual language education.

"It is what we as a school system can offer our students in a rigorous way the opportunity to regain part of their history," said Antonio Gonzales, assistant superintendent and former dual language teacher, "Because maybe their history to get away from them."

Learning the language also sparks a part of identity.

"It's very important to preserve and maintain our language so it doesn't get lost," said Jessica Villalobos, APS Language and equity director. "It's something very beautiful about our identity."

Villalobos has seen more students graduate with a bilingual seal over the past four years.

"On average we had about 200 to 300 students receiving bilingual sales. We've expanded to an average of 1,300 seals being awarded in the past two years," Villalobos said.

Getting a bilingual seal is a motivator for graduation.

Gonzales said it's "a sense of belonging and affirmation as perhaps an unintended consequence of the dual language program but what a better manifestation of its success than seeing kids graduate because of it."

Learning a new language could be English for some, and Spanish for others.

"It's amazing to see that over a relatively short period of time Not only do the students acquire a language But they also outperform their monolingual peers and standardized assessments for example," Gonzales said.

When it's time for students to graduate from high school, it's also a message.

"Dos idiomas vale por dos personas. Knowing two languages you are now able to contribute to the world double. And I think that really is a pretty amazing story to tell," Gonzales said.

Out of APS’ 144 schools, 66 of them have dual-language programs in Spanish, Zuni and Diné.

Watch the video above for the full story.