CANMORE – Two former École Notre-Dame des Monts students are celebrating after receiving prominent awards shining a light on Francophone education in the valley.
Lorien Monteith and Jordan Olsthoorn were both awarded $1,000 scholarships; Monteith was awarded one of three academic perseverance awards while Olsthoorn was awarded the Paul-Charbonneau award.
Olsthoorn said the award, which goes to a student who continues a Francophone education and has had community implications in Francophone learning, is thrilled to be able to share her passion for her first language.
“I love spreading the passion of my language through the community,” she said.
“I think the biggest thing is to always stand up for your first language, it’s hard to be bilingual … Be proud of who you are.”
The Paul-Charbonneau award is given annually to three graduates of Francophone schools across the country that pursues post-secondary education in a Francophone establishment, according to a press release from Francosud.
Olsthoorn is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in education at Edmonton's Campus Saint-Jean. She said she hopes to teach other students to be passionate about their language.
“I’m looking to become a high school science and math teacher at a Francophone school in Alberta, or Canada,” she said. “[I want to] share my passion for the language as well as science and math.”
Monteith said she was going into Grade 12 when she first came to Notre-Dame des Monts, but hadn’t been in a Francophone system since Grade 3.
“I decided to redo Grade 11, get some experience in French,” she said. “I went back to the Francophone system because we moved to Canmore and before that, where I lived, there weren’t any Francophone options, not even immersion.”
Monteith made the decision to try the Francophone route as she spoke French with her father, but noticed over the years, it was weakening.
“I see the value of both languages,” she said. “I felt I was losing it, and it’s very important and valuable to me to have both of them [French and English], I wanted to keep it and have it grow.”
While Monteith entered a Francophone school at a what might be considered a trying time for some students, she “was able to adapt very well to a Francophone learning environment and graduate from Notre-Dame des Monts in 2019,” stated the press release.
She said this is in large part due to great teachers and other students.
“I’m just really thankful to all the support of my teachers, my family and my classmates – they were incredibly helpful,” she said.
Monteith is taking some time off to travel, she said she spent the summer in Japan and Korea, and is currently saving up for her next trip.
The two former École Notre-Dame des Monts students were awarded their national awards mid-October at the National Federation of Francophone School Boards convention.