Extempore, a Minnesota language practice and assessment company, has received, in partnership with MN Zej Zog, a local nonprofit focused on promoting Hmong language and culture, a grant of $200,000 from the Securian Financial Foundation in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This grant will enable the company, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education and Avant Assessment, to host Bilingual Seal exams for free for students who wish to earn the seal in the following languages:
Minnesota’s Bilingual Seal recognizes a student's ability to communicate in English and one or more languages at a high level. If students meet the proficiency threshold on the exam, they are awarded a Bilingual or Multilingual Seal upon their graduation. Many Minnesota State Colleges and Universities recognize the value of the Seal by awarding college credit to recipients. For passing students, Seals also enhance resumes and college applications.
While the Bilingual Seal Exam is available to any student who wishes to prove proficiency in Minnesota’s less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), this grant will most benefit students who are not native English speakers and who, in most cases, will be first generation college students. By hosting the exams for these LCTLs that other platforms do not support, Extempore offers increased accessibility and equity for these communities of Minnesota.
The grant from Securian Financial Foundation covers Minnesota Bilingual Seal exams in many languages from 2024 through 2025.
Students, teachers, and communities around Minnesota will all directly benefit from this grant. The elimination of the financial burden for these students and their families will increase access and equity for those who otherwise might not have the resources to participate.
As part of this grant, Securian Financial is funding creation and distribution of resources to increase accessibility and equity to Seal Exams throughout the state. Districts and teachers will be equipped with posters, handouts, websites, practice tests, and other resources to raise awareness and prepare students for the exam. Such efforts will help grow the program and encourage more speakers of these languages to register for the exam. As a whole, these outcomes will help the Minnesota Department of Education achieve the main goal of the Bilingual Seal program: to celebrate these students, their cultures, and their heritages, and to recognize multilingualism as an asset for everyone.
“The Minnesota Bilingual Seals program is a tremendous opportunity to recognize and celebrate students who demonstrate the values of multilingualism and multiculturalism,” says Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Willie Jett. “This grant will provide even greater access for students. Many Minnesota high school graduates benefit from the Minnesota Seal of Biliteracy by earning college credit, boosting their resume, and more importantly, as individuals who contribute to the state’s vibrant economy and social wellbeing.”
“Closing the education achievement gap that holds back Minnesotans from underrepresented communities is a central pillar of the Securian Financial Foundation’s youth and education focus area,” said Tariq Malik, director of the Securian Financial Foundation. “We believe helping diverse students earn the Minnesota Bilingual Seal upon their graduation from high school will give them a competitive advantage as they transition to higher education and the workforce.”
“This grant will open the doors to college to thousands of students around the state, many of which are first generation Americans, and first generation college attendees,” Extempore CEO Carlos Seoane says. “We greatly value our partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education to grow the program, and this will leave a lasting impact on these communities.” Seoane also noted that his two trilingual children (they speak Spanish and English at home while attending Yinghua academy, a Chinese immersion school in Minneapolis) will “absolutely” be taking the seal exam when they are eligible.
Deeloh Technologies, Inc, a company based in northeast Minneapolis, is the maker of Extempore, a practice and assessment platform for students and teachers of world languages. Extempore is used around the globe to help schools and universities manage world language programs and build student proficiency. Extempore has hosted Bilingual Seal exams for Minnesota, Hawaii, and Washington since 2020.