Weekly Feature

2017-05-25 / Front Page

‘French connection’ comes to Depew High School

by AMY ROBB Editor

French exchange student Lou Febre, left, and Depew sophomore Jessica Allen enjoy lunch at the high school. French exchange student Lou Febre, left, and Depew sophomore Jessica Allen enjoy lunch at the high school. Depew High School Principal Carol Townsend spoke with School Board members on Tuesday about a foreign exchange program students took part in this year.

Thanks to French teacher Mary Ellen Gianturco, the program has been a part of student life for eight years, with French students from a private school in Dijon, France, staying with Depew families and shadowing students at the high school every other year throughout this time.

This year, 31 ninth-graders and four teachers came to Depew, giving them a glimpse into American life.

“They were housed with Depew families from Saturday through Wednesday; this past Wednesday they left. We welcomed them with a reception, and then they stayed with families and enjoyed Mother’s Day with the families, and then they came to school with the students and followed the student’s schedule,” said Gianturco.

Some families hosted more than one student, but for the most part one French student stayed with each family. The chaperones stayed with various Depew teachers in the area.

Prior to the group coming to Depew, families and students connected on social media to get an idea of who they would be staying with, sort a modern version of a pen pal.

Correspondence was a mix of English and French, benefiting Depew students as much as their visitors.

As part of the program, Depew students gave presentations to the Dijon students to introduce them to aspects of American culture.

“We did a presentation on Halloween [and] Thanksgiving, so that we can examine our own culture through their eyes,” added Gianturco.

Everyone involved took something away from the experience, whether it’s learning a new word or a different way of life, she said.

“I think it gave everybody the idea that things can be hard initially and kind of scary, and maybe there’s a little homesickness up front, but the friendships came pretty quickly and the comfort level came pretty quickly,” said Gianturco.

Both Townsend and Gianturco thanked the families that opened their homes to the exchange students, overwhelmed by the generosity that went well beyond providing room and board.

“They took these kids to Canalside … they went to Bisons games, everybody went for chicken wings. The families were very generous and open with their time. ... They were very kind to these kids,” said Gianturco.

“It’s been a great program. Having that student stay with you, live with you, live your lifestyle, is great for our families and students,” added Townsend.

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