For a young woman who started reciting French poems in grade three, Jessica Scott’s journey with Concours d’art oratoire has taken her very far – to the National Final of the speech competition to be exact.
Miss Scott is currently a grade 11 French immersion student at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School in Regina, and has been participating in Concours d’art oratoire for over half her life. It is an oratory contest for students enrolled in French-Second-Language (FSL) programs, hosted by Canadian Parents for French (CPF).
On May 24, she won first place in the Early French Immersion category at the National Final, hosted in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. This means she the opportunity to choose from an array of scholarship options at the University of Ottawa ($32,000), University of Moncton ($20,000) University of Prince Edward Island ($5,360) or Université Sainte-Anne ($2000).
“I didn’t think I was very good when I started,” she joked. “But I always remember liking it, so I worked hard at getting better. When I qualified for the provincials in grade 6, and then won, I was really happy.” The winning streak has not stopped, as Miss Scott has ranked first several times since, only once placing second.
She said she really enjoyed her experience at the National Final this year. Her speech was entitled Les médecins sans frontières : L’humanité en action (Doctors Without Borders: humanity in action).
“I am so grateful for the whole experience,” she said. “It was great to be able to meet so many others and hear all the great speeches. And also have the chance to speak in front of a whole different group of people. Judges and other competitors said that they really liked my topic and they said that I brought a new perspective to it.”
She said she felt very welcomed by CPF staff and volunteers organizing the event, and she had a great opportunity to interact with like-minded competitors.
“We got to Charlottetown on Friday and there was a barbecue where we all got to know each other,” Miss Scott commented. “In the evening we had chance to practice. What’s interesting is that my two roommates and I all ended up winning first place in our categories! After all the ceremonies were over we went on a tour of Founders Hall, went shopping at the Peake’s Wharf, had dinner at Peake’s Quay, and did a Ghostly Realm Tour. It was great!”
She said she credits her participation in Concours d’art oratoire for many positive aspects of her life.
“It’s a great program to get into,” she said. “It gives you the experience to go out of your comfort zone and gain confidence in your own abilities. Researching your topic definitely helps you with reading French and thinking critically. Hearing other speeches helps you with listening and comprehension. It’s a valuable experience outside of the traditional classroom setting.”
Miss Scott values her experience as an early French immersion student.
“Thanks to French immersion, I was able to participate in Concours, and now, I also have many post-secondary opportunities. I am realizing how much my education has opened my mind, and learning a second language has helped me understand and become interested in different cultures as well.”
Eric Bolay, President of the Canadian Parents for French – Saskatchewan (CPF-SK) Board of Directors witnessed Jessica’s speech at the Saskatchewan Provincial Final on April 26 in Saskatoon. “To have a candidate from Saskatchewan win at National is absolutely fantastic!” he said. “Jessica deserves it 150 percent; her speech took me on a voyage.”
He said he believes that Concours d’art oratoire offers a unique experience to students. “Everyone should try it at least once,” Bolay noted. “It opens so many doors – not only the ones for university, but the personal ones. It allows participants to speak in public about a topic they have a keen interest in. Bravo to Jessica, but also to all the other participants. They are all winners because they tried their very best; they battled the butterflies. I am so proud of all of them!”
CPF-SK Executive Director Karen Pozniak was present at the National Final in Charlottetown, and heard the announcement of Miss Scott as a winner. “It filled me with a great deal of pride,” she said. “Jessica is an articulate, composed, polished and professional young woman. We can also be very proud of the high calibre of French that immersion students learn right here in Saskatchewan.”
She also noted the great amount of support and opportunities that the Scott family has provided to their children by enrolling them in FSL.
“Jessica comes from a family where French is not the first language of the home,” noted Pozniak. “They are a typical FSL family. They – like many others who have enrolled their children in the program – see the value of the language and of being encouraging and supportive, providing as many opportunities as they can.”
Miss Scott’s parents, Mr. Jeff Scott and Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz were also at the National Final, and they were both elated for their daughter and the opportunities Concours d’art oratoire has provided to her.
“We are very appreciative that this program has been available to Jessica and so many others,” said Mr. Scott. “It’s multi-faceted, because it encourages public speaking skills and enhances French learning. Barb and I believed enrolling our son Alexander and Jessica in French immersion was important, so they will be able to converse in both Canada’s official languages, have greater educational, employment and travel opportunities, and most importantly life enrichment.”
Dr. Konstantynowicz said that she is grateful to CPF for the opportunities it provides to the youth of Canada. “It’s great for children to see an organization like CPF, as it is one that tries to be as fair and as supportive of children enrolled in FSL as possible.”
Congratulations Jessica – nous sommes trop fiers!