BRENTWOOD -- As she shared her touching story of becoming bilingual, Liberty High School Assistant Principal Sandra Guardado fought back tears and urged a crowd of Liberty Union High School District English learners to tackle their next goal of becoming bi-literate or capable of reading and writing in two languages.

"Work hard to keep your own language and learn English," she said. "You will get any job that you want."

Guardado, a former Liberty High student, was classified as an English learner for five years before being re-classified. She outlined her journey of moving on to Advanced Placement and honors English classes and ultimately earning her teaching credential, master's degree and administrator credential.

"I know how hard it is to learn a second language," Guardado said to students graduating from the district's English learner program last week at the Brentwood Community Center. "Being reclassified means that you have proven to the district that you have those skills."

About 100 students from Liberty, Freedom, Heritage, Independence and La Paloma high schools were recognized at the inaugural awards ceremony to celebrate English learners becoming fluent in English. They were joined by their proud parents and families in attendance.

"It is nice to see that you all appreciate what your students achieved," said district EL Coordinator Pat Boss. "To become truly bilingual is a marvelous thing for the 21st century."

To be classified as fluent in English, Boss said that the students had to achieve C grades or better in their core classes, pass the California High School Exit Examination and the California English Language Development Test and obtain a certain score on STAR testing.

District Assistant Superintendent Mary Vinciguerra said that it took perseverance and courage on the part of the students to achieve this educational milestone. She thanked the parents for exhibiting pride in their students and teachers for offering support and inspiration.

"Mostly, I would like to thank Pat Boss. This would not be happening without her," Vinciguerra said. "She is the person who is passionate for our English learners to get the best education they can."

Parents and family members who are not bilingual were able to listen to the ceremony translated in Spanish via headphones. Guardado urged students to remember those who supported them on their journey to bilingualism.

"I want you to remember this day. Not only for yourself, but for your parents. Your parents sacrificed a lot and put their own dreams aside for you," she said. "Thank your teachers. They are teaching you skills that will transfer to whatever you want to do. Remember, you did not get here alone."

Contact Paula King at 925-779-7174 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.