By Ed Johnson, Citizen Journalist
Six year old Nicola Adlerstarre thought it was “pretty neat to be with the big kids” when Kindergartners and Grade 12 French immersion students in Saanich, recently celebrated their annual gift exchange at Stelly’s High School.
The exchange is a symbolic “passing of the torch”, where senior graduating students present to their young counterparts a letter of encouragement, as they begin their twelve year journey in the french program. For the exchange, the graduates in return received a USB pen from the youngsters.
The annual gift exchange has been a tradition in Saanich for nineteen years, between children of Keating and Deep Cove Elementary Schools and Stellys High School. Kim Currie, President of Canadian Parents for French, Saanich Chapter, is proud of their accomplishments. This year there were 95 K-students and 38 Grade 12 graduates. “The program has seen an increase of over 15% year after year…We also have the highest retention rate in BC” she adds.
The first three or four years only French is spoken in the classroom.
The brave five and six year old initiates were led in small groups into the auditorium, with their names broadcast to the proud parents and onlookers. After having their picture taken while exchanging gifts, all remained seated on stage awaiting the grand finale-the moment when Mary Lynn Heron, Vice-Principal of Keating Elementary, led the children in a singing rendition of “Y’a un chat,” composed by Charlotte Diamond.
Nicola’s mom, Susan Fidyk, said her daughter Nicola was thrilled to finally perform the song that the children had been practicing.
In attendance were Mayor Alistair Bryson, Central Saanich Councillors Zeb King and Carl Jensen. All three were asked for their comments. Councillor Zeb King commented, ”Standing here today and seeing the next generation, reminds me how important the decisions are that we make as a community.”
As evening drew to a close, the children were beaming while they held closely their very own letter of encouragement. But it may a couple of years before the children can read their letter – it was written in french, mais oui!