Niurca Chabla-Leon is one of the top young artists on Long Island and the Huntington High School senior has earned plenty of praise over the years for her work. But she recently impressed an entirely different group of faculty members when she spoke in Spanish for more than 20 minutes during a presentation on her language studies.
The teenager addressed a group of teachers evaluating students who are seeking the Seal of Biliteracy on their high school diplomas. Ms. Chabla-Leon’s presentation evoked a string of emotions and a sense of pride in the faculty members who participated in the panel.
Huntington senior Niurca Chabla-Leon
Teachers Lorena Hickey and Natalia Kopshti worked closely with Ms. Chabla-Leon in the run-up to the presentation as members of the Seal of Biliteracy Committee. They interviewed the teenager as she went about presenting and defending her portfolio.
“The New York State Seal of Biliteracy recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing in one or more languages, in addition to English,” according to the State Education Department. “The intent of it is to encourage the study of languages; identify high school graduates with language and biliteracy skills for employers; provide universities with additional information about applicants seeking admission; prepare students with 21st century skills; recognize the value of foreign and native language instruction in schools; and affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society.”
Ms. Chabla-Leon came to the Huntington School District and Southdown Primary School as a fourth grader. She is interested in attending Adelphi University and studying to prepare for a career as an art teacher.
“This year, we have changed the Seal of Biliteracy project,” explained Judy Goris-Moroff, Huntington UFSD’s director of world languages, English as a new language and bilingual programs. “Students must now defend their years of work in their language class to a committee panel. We have started student presentations and Niurca Chabla-Leon, presented and had the committee in tears.”
The teenager is on Huntington High School’s High Honor Roll, but she told the faculty panel that earlier in her life she was told that she shouldn’t speak two languages because it might confuse her.
“She was able to start studying her language in high school,” Ms. Goris-Moroff said. “Her journey is incredible and she is doing fantastic. She impressed me so much that I had to share her triumphs with everyone.”
Making a 20-plus minute long presentation and answering questions from a faculty panel could fill anyone with anxiety, but Ms. Chabla-Leon was able to control her nerves and shine.
“I was nervous at the beginning of the presentation, but then I calmed down and it became easier to present in front of the board,” Ms. Chabla-Leon said. “It was a great experience. My experience in Huntington has been great and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
When she was finished, Ms. Chabla-Leon left the faculty panel in awe. “I am so proud of her and hope that she does become a bilingual teacher,” Ms. Goris-Moroff said.
To view Ms. Chabla-Leon’s presentation, click on this link: