This fall, North Shore Community College will break down barriers when it begins offering its liberal-arts associate degree in both English and Spanish through a Dual Language Pathway program.

NSCC’s main goal with this program is to increase liberal-arts-degree completion rates for Spanish-speaking students who seek to improve their abilities in both languages. Dean of Liberal Studies Dr. Chris Bednar explained in a press release how significant this program is for students.

“The Dual Language Liberal Arts Transfer Pathway at NSCC is a radical departure from traditional postsecondary practices of exclusion in that it validates for academic credit the linguistic assets of historically-marginalized student populations,” Bednar said.

In addition to Bednar, the college’s Director of English Second Language Navigation Elizabeth Paz was at the forefront of making this idea a reality. Paz was recently promoted to her current position in anticipation of this new program. She guides English second-language learners through the logistical side of how the country’s higher-education system functions. She highlighted NSCC’s recent designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution as a driving force in how and why this program came to be. She explained that the program aims to not set students back in their academic progression just because they are not yet proficient English speakers.

“When you look at the population of Lynn and in the surrounding areas there is a high amount of Spanish speakers in our public-school system,” Paz said. “A lot of the time when you have these language-learner students, you see them go into remedial classes that don’t really count toward a degree for a significant period of time, so most of the time they don’t graduate because we’re looking at them speaking another language as a deficit or a problem to be solved.”

NSCC believes that the Dual Language Pathway will help students earn academic recognition for bilingual skills, enroll in college-level transfer courses faster, and transfer to a public Massachusetts state university or UMass-system institution with junior status, all while increasing the likelihood of degree completion.

Paz noted that this addition is not solely for the benefit of students seeking a liberal-arts degree.

“Even those that are not interested in doing the degree fully, they can take a psychology or sociology course in our dual-language program,” Paz explained. “Even if they’re not in the degree program itself, they can take those classes to build up the requirements of whatever their pathway is.”

The program’s classes are formed into two separate groups: fully Spanish-speaking and English with Spanish support. Paz emphasized that the program can also be an asset to English speakers who are trying to learn Spanish.

“If you’re a Spanish-language learner with a high proficiency and you want to engage in the language you’re studying, you can also take these classes,” she said.

Paz said she expects to see a high enrollment rate this summer for the new degree program, as individual dual-language courses the college has offered in the past garnered a lot of interest. Bednar said the community surrounding NSCC will benefit greatly from utilizing its newest resource.

“As an HSI we currently have a 28% Spanish-speaking student population,” Bednar said. “We know we have the market for this program to succeed and it meets the goals of our new strategic plan that has equity, racial justice, and affirming cultural competency at its core.”

By Ben Pierce | July 7, 2023 | Lynn Item

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