UDC celebrates first graduates of new bilingual education program 

UDC celebrates first graduates of new bilingual education program 

UDC celebrates first graduates of new bilingual education program


Graduates with Community College Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Marilyn Hamilton (front row, in yellow) and Dr. Scott King, professor of hospitality (back row).

Graduates with Community College Dean Dr. Marilyn Hamilton (front row, in yellow) and Dr. Scott King, professor of hospitality (back row).


The first cohort of students to earn UDC’s Bilingual (Spanish) Associate in Arts degree in Education, Birth to Age 3, was celebrated during a ceremony marking a new path toward access to high-quality, multilingual early childhood education in the District. 

The University of the District of Columbia hosted the event in conjunction with Briya Public Charter School and the Multicultural Spanish Speaking Providers Association (MSSPA). The ceremony occurred on March 25 at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC), Bertie Backus Campus’s auditorium. 

Under a new DC law that goes into effect by December 2023, at a minimum, directors of childcare centers will need a bachelor’s degree in early education, teachers will need an associate degree in early education, and assistant teachers and caregivers in home-based daycares will need a Child Development Associate’s credential. 

UDC is the only bilingual degree program in the DC metro area and one of only a few in the country. In the past, limited English and Spanish-speaking students enrolled in the program but struggled to keep up with the content, and many decided to discontinue. Now that there is a bilingual program in place, Spanish-speaking childcare providers can understand the theory of child development and be able to discuss the application of this knowledge in their settings. As part of the implementation of the program, UDC had to translate syllabi from its English-language associates’ program, find textbooks in Spanish, and hire ECE faculty who were fluent in both Spanish and English. 

Nearly 300 students are enrolled in the bilingual program, and 40 are in the English-only program. The program is made possible at no cost to the participants with funding from the DC City Council, UDC and the Bainum Family Foundation. It not only supports students’ education ambitions in Spanish but also supports a critical need for educated early childhood teachers and has an economic impact on the District. 

UDC’s President Ronald M. Mason Jr. welcomed 21 program completers, their families and friends at the ceremony. “You have worked hard to get here.” 

“Acquiring the knowledge required to instill in young people a solid foundation upon which to build academic success and ultimately success in life is no small feat. Doing so while working and navigating two languages is even more impressive but not surprising,” he continued. 

“Many of you have journeyed far and endured much to be here. If there is one thing that is clear, it is that you do not give up. You set your eyes on a goal, and one way or another, you achieve it. Of all the lessons that you will convey to your pupils, I suspect that will be the most important and indelible—never give up,” Mason said. 

The Associate in Arts in Education degree provides a comprehensive background in developmental theory emphasizing the practical application of theory to appropriate environments for culturally, linguistically and developmentally diverse children in group care settings. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of adults working in various early childhood settings, including public and private daycare homes, child development centers, kindergartens, Head Start, preschool and school-age care programs. 

Dr. Marilyn Hamilton, dean of UDC’s Community College, provided closing remarks, recognized the graduates, and acknowledged all the hard work that had been put in to establish the new degree offering. She gave credit to University administrators and faculty, especially Cecelia Alvarado, former program coordinator for initiating the program; Professor Scott King, division director of the Business and Education programs who oversees the program; Nailah Williams, the acting associate vice president at the time who worked to make sure that the admissions process was smooth; Beverly Bennett-Roberts, who worked closely with students through the admissions process and Dr. William Hacker, associate dean, who worked to make sure that students were enrolled and registered in classes. 

“As you move forward in your careers, I encourage you to continue to be curious, reflective and adaptable,” said Hamilton. “Remember that your role in molding the future of our society is crucial. The early years of child development are crucial, not only for the child’s mental and physical growth but also for the overall development of our communities. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors as Early Childhood Education professionals.” 

Graduate Glenda Mendoza was particularly excited about obtaining her new degree. “During my last semester, my son started his bachelor’s degree at UDC and that made me very happy. I told him that if I could finish my associate degree, he could finish his,” she said. 

The event was co-moderated by the president of the Multicultural Spanish Speaking Providers Association (MSSPA), Cristina Encinas with support from Briya Public Charter School. MSSPA is a professional membership association whose members include childcare centers, licensed home daycares and Early Childhood teachers. The Briya Public Charter School has a two-generation model, where adults and their young children learn together. At Briya, immigrant parents study English, from basic to advanced levels, and their young children thrive in high-quality early education classes at the same time. Briya also offers a high school diploma and training to earn Child Development Associate and Medical Assistant credentials 

Other event speakers included Sara Mead, deputy superintendent of early learning in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education; Antoinette Mitchell, Ph.D., assistant superintendent of postsecondary and career education in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education; Jackie Reyes, director, Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs; and Marica Cox Mitchell, vice president, early childhood, Bainum Family Foundation. 

UDC’s newly minted educators are leading the way to increase access to high-quality, multilingual early childhood education in the District of Columbia. UDC’s inclusionary program serves as both a local and national model. For more information about the Associate of Arts in Education, please click here.