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WSD students gain confidence en français

March 5, 2024 News Story
WSD - French Immersion Leadership Team 1 (Supplied photo)

Winnipeg School Division students are immersing themselves in French outside the classroom.

French Immersion students from École Secondaire Sisler High School, École Secondaire Kelvin High School and Collège Churchill High School gathered at Université de Saint-Boniface on Feb. 27 for the kick-off of Équipe Jeunesse de Leadership WSD.

The French Immersion youth leadership team is part of a larger WSD recruitment and retention project called Cultivating Cultural and Linguistic Leaders in Immersion.

“The leadership team is for French Immersion students in Grades 9 to 12 who would like to improve their French language skills, as well as their leadership skills,” said Jennifer Major, French Learning Leadership Coordinator.

“We are doing monthly cultural and linguistic activities. Today we’re getting to know each other and learning about Université de Saint-Boniface. We’ll have lunch in the cafeteria and this afternoon we’re going to an escape room, Escape Social, where we’ll only speak in French. It’s a team building activity, while also learning to use French outside of the classroom.”

Currently, there are 57 students on the youth leadership team, along with five teacher mentors. In addition to monthly activities, students will visit French Immersion elementary and middle schools to share their knowledge and skills with younger students.

“When these students volunteer in some of our elementary or middle schools, they represent what the possibilities are for those younger students,” said Stéphanie Garand, French Program Lead.

“Also, for students who are interested in becoming French Immersion educators, we’ll support them even after they finish high school. The teacher mentors will continue to support them in their education studies. Also, students can come back and do some professional learning with us. It’s about keeping those lines of communication open.”

Joachim Malig is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Education at USB. A Sisler graduate, Malig told the students about how he first felt apprehensive to attend a French university.

“Lots of students in French Immersion have this perception that their French is not good enough. I had the same insecurities and worries as these students” Malig said.

“When I think back to being in school, it was outings like this one that really helped me be more confident. An activity like an escape room is just perfect. There’s lots of communicating. Also, it’s not in a classroom and it’s not being evaluated. The students can be themselves and express themselves, which I think helps them improve their linguistic capabilities.

Martin Sanchez, a Grade 9 student at Kelvin, thinks Équipe Jeunesse de Leadership WSD will make him more comfortable communicating in French.

“When you get involved, you get more familiar with the words,” Sanchez said. “One of the keys to learning a language is getting involved in activities you like to do but doing them in the language you want to learn.”

Precious Alicpala, a Grade 11 student at Sisler, is excited to improve her French speaking skills while also making new friends.

“I don’t use French much outside of school, so this a great opportunity to explore the language and also meet like-minded people outside of our normal classrooms,” Alicpala said.

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