In conjunction with Hill's academic theme of Community, the students in Dr. Yvonne LeBlanc's French 3 class (pictured on this page) participated in a letter exchange with students in Cameroon. The project was made possible in large part due to the efforts and determination of Claire Kihn, a Peace Corps volunteer who works in a village without electricity or running water in the far north of Cameroun. Below is an account of this project by Molly Hopkins '13:
When Dr. LeBlanc explained in an earlier French 3 class that we would be conversing with a group of teenagers from Cameroon through hand-written letters, I was excited by the thought of learning from other students my age about their culture and educational background. Shy to admit that I didn’t know much about Cameroon, I eagerly jumped into the project. My first letter to my pen pal was short and sweet. It consisted of a quick summary of my life: my age, my birthday, my hometown, a short list of activities I enjoy, and a casual goodbye. Several weeks later, my class received a pile of letters in return that were written in impeccable English on decorative stationary. As we shared the letters aloud, our eyes widened at the information we were hearing.
The first letter I read was from a boy named Nigo Bowega. Nigo informed me that he was 19 years; he was in his last year of primary school; and he was the youngest boy of five brothers and four sisters. Nigo described his school and mentioned a few of the classes he took, such as mathematics, biology, and German. His school consisted of about 500 students, some of whom walked up to 65 miles per day just to get to and from school. To pay for his education, Nigo worked endlessly on his family farm, growing and harvesting vegetables that were to be sold at market.
Nigo also expressed his interest in the American culture. He seemed extremely enthusiastic about writing to us and asked us many questions about our own lives. At the conclusion of his letter, he wrote, “Please give my regards to the people of Pennsylvania. Your best friend, Nigo.”
It amazed me to hear what these teenagers go through on a daily basis just to receive what I simply get by walking out my door: a great education. My class currently is in the process of responding to our pen pals, and I look forward to learning more about Nigo and his friends.
In addition to their letter exchange, French 3 students also used technology to learn more about French-speaking countries. The students read a blog by Aimee Cosentino, a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. The class also corresponded with Ms. Cosentino via her blog to learn more about life in Senegal. Renee Cherry '13 wrote the following account of this experience:
This year, the students of Dr. LeBlanc’s French 3 class had the chance to learn about the influence of French culture and language beyond the borders of France itself. Throughout the year, we had been learning about various French-speaking countries. However, when studying the country of Senegal, we had more than the information and film provided by our textbooks; we also had our own correspondent in this country: Aimee Cosentino. We had the opportunity to read her articles and interact with Aimee through her blog.
Aimee is currently working in Senegal as a Peace Corps volunteer. Her blog, “Stories From Senegal,” includes pictures and articles detailing her everyday life in Africa as a part of the Preventative Health and Environmental Education sector. We learned, for example, about the school system there and how education is quite limited for women since they often have to leave school as young adolescents to help with household chores. We also found out how organizations, such as UNESCO, are helping to change the lives of these women. We enjoyed the hands-on opportunity to correspond with Aimee and learn more about the culture of Senegal and life as a Peace Corps volunteer in French-speaking Africa.