This High School’s ESL Graduation Honored Immigrant Students & Their Parents

Lead Photo: Photo by Lorraine Boogich / E+
Photo by Lorraine Boogich / E+
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When U.S. Grant High School planned the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2017, the Oklahoma City school went the extra step to include parents who don’t speak English. Last week, the school held a separate graduation for students who learned English as a second language. Unlike a typical graduation ceremony, this one didn’t just celebrate the students completing high school; it also acknowledged the work they put into learning a new language.

According to NBC News, the ceremony was mostly conducted in Spanish, but also included Arabic and French interpretations. More than 30 students, who will also attend the main ceremony, participated in the event. They each received a book signed by their teachers.

English language learners make up about 30 percent of the Oklahoma City Public School’s (OKCPS) student body. “They not only have to master all of the material required in high school, but they also have to learn a language at the same time,” OKCPS’ Superintendent Aurora Lora told NBC News. “We have newcomers from a lot of different backgrounds, and it’s great because it’s kind of a wonderful sort of melting pot of individuals who share their experiences from their native countries. And they come and share their culture with us, and so I think the diversity of our student body in Oklahoma City is overall really beautiful.”

Daniela Unzueta, the Class of 2017’s valedictorian, arrived from Mexico just this year. She took

Between regular school hours and night school, she took four English and three history classes that were required. “It’s been a really big challenge,” Daniela, 18, said. “I’m away from my family and basically alone here. I came here with a goal to give the best of me to everyone, and I think I’m doing well.”

Read more about the ceremony at NBC News.