After attending the EMSB’s Willingdon Elementary and Royal West Academy, Clara Chemtov headed to CEGEP Saint-Laurent to study dance. While her options were limited, with CEGEP Saint-Laurent being the only school offering her desired program, she, nevertheless, felt prepared for what lay ahead, thanks to her time spent at Royal West and its Français Langue Enseignement program.
“Going to Royal West Academy proved to be an asset for me,” she said. “Much of the material I was learning in CEGEP I had already been accustomed to since Secondary III at Royal West. I also didn’t have to take any additional exams or remedial activities to enter CEGEP Saint-Laurent because of my pre-existing French education.”
Clara would advise other students to invest in bilingualism and their French courses.
“Ultimately, you get what you put in,” she said. “Immerse yourself in the readings and discussions. If you expose yourself to the language, it will open doors for you in the future.”
Growing up in a bilingual household, where both her parents spoke fluent English and French, Charlotte Cadieux recognizes her own bilingualism as integral to our identity. This made her time at Westmount High School and its French Immersion program all the more memorable to her.
“Some of my fondest memories of high school were the classes I had with my French teachers, like Mr. Desjardins,” she said. “During his classes, we'd start the lesson by having political discussions about current events or the comings and goings of our day-to-day. Everyone had the chance to either give their opinions about the news or just open up. The class was always very engaging with Mr. Desjardins due to his enthusiasm for teaching.”
With half of her courses taught in French, Charlotte was able to enrich her written and spoken French, further preparing her for her post-secondary studies at Collège de Maisonneuve, where she studied Sciences, Lettres et arts.
“I wanted to engage with more of my franco-speaking peers,” she said. “You always possess an edge when you're multilingual: bilingualism is the starting point to opening yourself up to a world of perspectives, interactions and opportunities.”
Charlotte says multiple educational, social and work-related opportunities have opened up for her simply for being able to converse in both languages. She encourages others to follow suit.
“I can say with confidence that I am grateful for having been put into Immersion.” she said. “As long as the EMSB school you choose promotes community and collaboration between students when learning, the experience your child(ren) will have is going to be positive.”
Francine Romano never intended on attending a French CEGEP following her graduation from St. Leonard’s Laurier Macdonald High School in 2008. She was enrolled at Dawson College before an unexpected operation led her to transfer to CEGEP Marie-Victorin.
“Marie-Victorin was closer to home,” said Francine, a freelance graphic designer, journalist, artist and director. “It was easier to pursue my education there. I am so happy that my journey led me unexpectedly to a French school. It shaped who I am today. My French language skills improved even more and it has helped open doors for me. I can’t rave about my experience enough.”
She credits her time at Laurier Macdonald and the teachers she had there with making her transition to a French CEGEP all the more easier.
Francine is currently working on a bilingual television series, for which she received a grant in 2021 to write. The show is in pre-production.
“I am a huge advocate for bilingualism and am hoping to help in any way I can to end what I call ‘language racism,’ she said. “I believe that our city can strive together, equally in both languages! We need to be united as a city and not divided due to language.”