Dear friends and supporters of the FHLP,
As we wrap up an extraordinary school year and we are all struggling with the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic, our summer newsletter brings you the stories of our students. Despite all the inequalities and hurdles they face, they are teaching us all valuable lessons of resilience, success and hope and remind us all, at a time when it is easy to forget, the promises of this country.
We are sharing with you a year that was cut short in terms of events but was yet full of accomplishments and promises: from preparing and taking the French AP exam despite the circumstances to winning prizes at the Lycée Français French Theater Festival, from an overnight college visit to Lafayette College (PA) to a fun film screening at the FIAF, and finally, for our seniors, graduating from high school.
We finished the school year on a high note with an end of the year celebration, but also with 14 of our students being awarded the Global Seal of Biliteracy and two of them, the prestigious Seal of Biliteracy by the NY State Department of Education.
Join us as we celebrate all of these accomplishments.
The COVID 19 pandemic did not halt our activities: at the contrary, we’ve been quite busy staying connected to our students and maintaining the FHLP community.
We want to celebrate our seniors’ journeys because they are truly inspiring. Arrived in this country 4 years ago and less, they grappled with the reality of being in a new country, with a culture at the antipodes of what they’ve always known; they had to learn a new language at the speed of light and navigate the complex American college admissions system.
Despite all those obstacles, they graduated and have been admitted to community colleges, CUNY schools but also private institutions like Purchase College, Francis College, Skidmore College and NYU.
We cannot wait to see what they are going to do next!
This year, two FHLP students were awarded the NY State Seal of Biliteracy: Manda Ba of Union Square International High School and Fatoumata Fadiga from Community International High School .
This official credential affixed to their high school diploma recognizes their bilingualism in French and in English.
14 other FHLP students from Bronx International, Union Square and Community were awarded the Global Seal of Biliteracy this year, another language credential potentially bearing college credits. It was first designed for language learners who do not have access to state-sponsored Seal of Biliteracy programs and provides an opportunity for all students to earn recognition for their language proficiency skills.
On March 10, just a few days before schools closed and confinement and distance learning became the new norm, 25 students from Community International High School took advantage of the FIAF program “Young Audience Program” and headed to the FIAF in New York to watch “Swagger”, a documentary by Olivier Babinet following 11 teenagers from the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Paris.
The projection was followed by a master class by David Gerstner, Professor of Cinema Studies and Chair of the Department of Media Culture at CUNY.
There were a lot of reactions and conversations around the theme of the documentary and the students got a chance to dive a little deeper back to the schools with their teacher Nassira Hamdi.
A two-day visit to Lafayette College during the February break with 15 FHLP students marked the beginning of , what we hope, will be a long and fruitful partnership between the FHLP and Lafayette College. The benefits are mutual: the FHLP students are mentored on college prep by french speaking students, and Lafayette students are given the opportunity to develop new friendships and empathize with people who are from a different community of learners.
The AP exam is a prestigious exam that sanctions a college level course in different subjects and is usually offered to high performing students. However, the statistics show that English Learners have less access to this exam, still very much regarded in the college admission process.
Every year, we prepare 30 to 40 FHLP students to the AP French Language and Culture by offering AP classes during the school day and two free intensive workshops during the school breaks. And this year was no different until schools closed.
For the 7th consecutive year, 20 students from the French Heritage Language Program (FHLP) participated in the annual French Theater Festival “Première Scène” organized by the Lycée Français de New York.
Started 21 years ago by two LFNY teachers, the festival gathers every year more than 200 students from schools all over the country but also France and Canada, around a theater competition, celebrating the French language.
And every year, our students shined, with their own productions or with works from African authors, displaying the diversity of the francophone world and proving that French is not only the language of Paris but also Dakar or Bamako.
For the fifth consecutive year, French Heritage Students from International Community High school welcomed French high schoolers from Lycée Jeanne D’Arc St Ivy, in Bretagne for a day of visit, discussions and connections beyond geographical, racial or cultural barriers, through the French language.
To celebrate the 50 years of the OIF (the Francophonie Organization) and encourage written and oral productions in French, we organized a contest where students were asked to make their self portrait in French. We’ve received many submissions and you can see the finalists’ videos submitted by students this year on our YouTube channel.
Bravo to our winner, Malika Sawadogo, senior at International High School At Union Square who is heading to Skidmore College but also to her contenders, Rachida Sofiani, Fatoumata Fadiga and Hatouma Doucouré.
We were looking forward to summer and taking our students around NYC to places in their city they never had the chance to visit. This year, unfortunately, that was not an option so we had to be creative and offer our students alternatives.
So we came up with a virtual summer program: students had the option of brushing up on their French skills at our French bootcamp, debate weekly around themes they were interested in, see a movie and discuss it afterwards or attend circles where issues like identity, intergenerational family relations and life choices were discussed.
One of FHLP’s mission is to promote Heritage Language teaching and contribute to the research in that underdeveloped field, especially for the French language. This year again, the FHLP was present at a number of conferences on Heritage language (in person or virtually) to make sure French stays present in the conversations around teaching heritage languages:
– The Community- Based Heritage Language Schools Conference in Washington, October 11 to 12, 2019.
– The ACTFL conference in Washington from November 22 to 24, 2019.
– The UCLA National Heritage Research Center Twelfth Virtual Institute from June 8 to 11, 2020.
Jane Ross, our founder, also published her book: “Two Centuries of French Education in New York: the role of schools in cultural diplomacy” in which she details the history of French educational institutions outside of France. It is through the lens of education that the author additionally explores other pertinent issues such as French cultural diplomacy and the evolution of Franco-American relations.
Programs and activities like ours have proven to not only support the students’ literacy and academic success, they are also crucial for the social and emotional well being of our students, the most vulnerable and the most under-served. Unfortunately, we can suspect that they are going to suffer from schools budgets’ cuts.
According to a survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, nearly 9 in 10 programs have long-term funding concerns because of school closures caused by COVID-19—and 6 in 10 are concerned that they may have to permanently shut their doors.
We hope you continue to support us and help us sustain our mission: Making French an asset for these new Americans.
Agnès Ndiaye Tounkara