Graduation Ceremony for the Students of PS84 and PS58

June 25, 2013 | By French Culture

On June 19, 2013, a graduation ceremony was held at the French Consulate in New York City to honor 5th grade students from PS84 and PS58. These students represent the first group to have followed a bilingual education track in French and English since the beginning of their schooling, in 2007, in New York City public schools. PS58, The Carroll School in Brooklyn, and PS84, The Lilian Weber School on the Upper West Side are pioneers in the field of French-English bilingual education have since been joined by six other schools in New York and many similar initiatives across the United States.

On the occasion, Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, addressed the graduating students with the following speech.

Good evening everyone!

Tonight is a historic moment. We not only celebrate the graduation of a first cohort. We not only inaugurate a new tradition of graduating students in dual-language programs. We also celebrate the beauty of growing bilingual and bicultural. We celebrate the belief that multilingualism is key to a successful 21st Century education.

These children and these schools are pioneers. They are the soul of the bilingual revolution. Therefore, I must thank the principals, Giselle GAULT-McGEE and Robin SUNDICK, and their wonderful teachers, for their amazing dedication and hard work.

I also want to congratulate you, parents, the fierce defenders of the French language. Because without you, none of these programs would have ever existed. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the work of EFNY, an important parents’ association, which has advocated for dual-language education since 2005.

With you, we believed passionately, and we engaged ourselves entirely, in the creation of French-English programs in public schools. Like you, we believe that we have given children the best gift ever: a passport to the world.

For us at the French Embassy, creating these opportunities for all children has become so central to our mission that we have formed a special committee of fundraisers and supporters. There are today in New York City twenty seven thousand children who live in homes where French is spoken. This is enough children to open 35 schools. Double that number if you take into account the dual-language model which includes non-French speakers for half of the class. This might seem unrealistic but let me have a dream… and share it with you.

In order to realize this dream, we have launched a fundraising campaign to create scholarships for new teachers and resources to all schools with the intention to extend these programs through high school. The Société des Professeurs Francophones d’Amérique has already given a generous matching gift to create scholarships for new teachers and I must thank Bayard Presse and its CEO Alain Augé, and Gilles Bransbourg for donating the books for our students. I would also like to thank the parents who were instrumental in creating the programs at PS58 and PS84: Florence Nash , Catherine Poisson, Beth Shairs, Elisa Simonot, Florence Poussin, Virgil de Voldere and Talcott Camp, as well as all the parents  and organizations who gave money or books to the schools: the American Society of the Order of Merit and the French Senate. I would like to thank Fabrice Jaumont for his indefatigable support of bilingual education. And finally, a special thank you to the New York City Department of Education and the Office of English Language Learners for their continuous support. As you can see, it is a true collective effort!   

Tonight, if you too want to make this dream come true, please talk to Maggie at the table downstairs. You will become our personal heroes.

I said thank you to the teachers, the principals, the parents and the sponsors. But I think I forgot the most important people here tonight: you, the children! And as we are celebrating bilingualism, I will continue this speech in French.

Chers enfants,

Vos professeurs m’ont dit que vous aviez été de très bons élèves. Je vous félicite. Je voulais aussi vous dire que vous êtes un exemple pour de nombreux enfants, plus jeunes que vous, qui vous regardent et vont vous suivre. Vous avez ouvert la voie et démontré qu’en étudiant en deux langues on peut multiplier ses chances. Aujourd’hui, vous êtes les meilleurs ambassadeurs de la France et de la langue française. Mais pas seulement : vous êtes aussi le futur d’un monde où parler plusieurs langues est un atout indispensable pour comprendre les autres et mieux appréhender les défis de demain. La connaissance de l’autre est le premier pas vers l’entente et vers la paix.

Continuez comme ça ! Continuons ensemble.

Thank you.

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