Lindsay Thurber students get to meet exchange counterparts

After spending six months getting to know each other through email and social media, 45 Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School students said bonjour to their twins for the first time next week.

After spending six months getting to know each other through email and social media, 45 Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School students said bonjour to their twins for the first time next week.

A contingent of Grade 10 and 11 students from Ecole Jeanne D’Arc in Mulhouse, France, arrived at the high school on Thursday as part of the latest student exchange between the two schools.

For the next 12 days, the French students will attend classes with their “twin,” stay in student host’s homes and practise their English skills as they get to know Canadian life.

Since the 1992-1993 school year, 90 students from Lindsay Thurber and Ecole Jeanne D’Arc have taken a trip to their twin school on alternate years, every two years. When the 45 Lindsay Thurber students head to France in 2013, their arrival will mark the 20th exchange between the two schools.

Rob Porkka, the district’s director of international education, said it is rare to maintain this type of relationship for 20 years because of personnel and administration changes. Porkka founded the program when he was a teacher with another former teacher, Clem Hebert.

“We have had personnel changes but the importance of the program has survived for 20 years,” said Porkka.

The program has sent 450 LTCHS students to France and 450 Ecole Jeanne D’Arc students to Red Deer over the last two decades.

Porkka said these exchanges give students opportunities to practise their second language skills and the international language experience opens their eyes to the world.

“Yet they can do that within the safety of going initially with their school group,” said Porkka. “Often students will go and they will have a look at the place and say yes this would be a great opportunity. They either return and do a semester of high school or post-secondary studies overseas.”

Porkka said the partnership was a logical progression for second language students because in middle school there are opportunities for students to participate in student exchanges with Quebec.

Lindsay Thurber has more than 300 students in its French Immersion and French as a Second Language programs. There are more than 1,000 students enrolled in French Immersion in Red Deer Public schools.

The twin schools in the Red Deer Public School District support the second language programs, including French, German, Japan and Spanish. In the past, Lindsay Thurber has had partnerships with Germany and Japan. Over the last year, Lindsay Thurber formed a partnership with a twin school in Spain. Next year, Red Deer Public will launch its first Spanish immersion program for kindergarten and Grade 1 students.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com