French immersion students at Fernie Secondary School (FSS) are working hard to raise money for an exchange program with a school in Montreal.
This February, 38 kids in grades seven, eight, and nine will head to Montreal. In April, they will take on the role of hosts for a group of Montreal students.
FSS held a spaghetti dinner and silent auction on Thursday night to kick off the fundraising efforts. “We’re supported by the student exchange program,” explained Roxanne Esch, FSS teacher. “They pay the airfare, which is a $20,000 bill, but then we have to host the kids from Montreal, which will probably cost us about $12,000 for the week.”
Each student will stay with a billeted family, however some of the additional hosting costs include bussing and transportation, wages for substitute teachers, and lift tickets.
“The kids take a leadership role in the fundraising, like our spaghetti dinner fundraiser,” said Esch. “They’re serving, they did set up, and the planning of the event. We’re doing a whole bunch of fundraising activities, like magazine sales, and selling beef jerky.”
FSS’s exchange program began two years ago and this will be the second time students have the opportunity to travel across the country. “When we went the first time they took us to Parliament Hill, old Montreal, they kind of showed us the best of their world,” said Esch. “When they came here we had two days of skiing, we did avalanche awareness, a Teck tour, the Frank Slide, and showed them our world.
“It was amazing, I completely underestimated the value of it.”
Grade nine student, Tessa Holmes, is excited to spend time with the Montreal students not only in Quebec, but at home in Fernie. “It’s cool because in Quebec they don’t really get to experience some of the winter things we have,” she said. “They get to do some of the winter activities we get to do, and when we go there they show us around, so we get to interact with them and practise speaking more French.”
Esch and another French teacher, along with a couple of parent chaperones, will spend a week with the FSS kids in Quebec at the end of February.
“It’s a real eye-opener for them, because they’re quite sheltered in the valley,” remarked Esch. “I’m very passionate about not just language, but also to have the chance to expose the kids to a more multicultural, bilingual, and urban experience.”
Esch went on to say, “I want the kids to have an experience to be able to exercise their French, but it’s not only just a French language component, but a social component. So when they are in grade nine and are studying the battle of the Plains of Abraham, they can say they’ve been there.”