Six members of St. Joseph’s Academy’s upper-level French Club served as greeters at Joyeux Noël held December 2 at the Governor’s Mansion. The Louisiana French Christmas celebration was hosted by Governor John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards to honor the first responders to south Louisiana’s tragic August floods and to lift the spirits of families who were impacted by the disaster.
The event featured a children’s choir singing French carols, a visit from Papa Noël and pictures with the kids.
The SJA students greeted guests in French as they arrived at the mansion. They also helped Papa Noël and Maman Noëlle by handing out French Christmas coloring books to the youngest visitors. The bilingual coloring books were created by French teacher Glynis Davis at the request of the Office of the First Lady. The coloring books feature Christmas vocabulary and Louisiana facts.
“I was so proud of our girls,” Davis said of the celebration. “They were so gracious and were outstanding SJA French ambassadors.”
“It was a great experience to not only speak the language I love but to also volunteer and help children learn French,” junior Tess Hiller said.
Senior Gaby Fuentes was especially moved by her interaction with a 4-year-old boy. “He and his parents were walking up the stairs, and I greeted them in French,” she said. “His parents said, ‘Say bonjour to the nice lady,’ and he repeated it back to me. I spent the next five minutes talking with this little boy in French. It was the most heartwarming thing that happened throughout the evening. I loved getting to witness the spread of the language that I have loved my whole life. It was truly amazing.”
Senior Paige Melançon said the evening had deep personal meaning to her. “As a flood victim myself, seeing the relief on the parents’ faces because the party was giving them a break from the tribulations of dealing with their house brought such joy to me,” she said.
Senior Caroline Balhoff said participating in the celebration was a great experience. “I was able to further expand my knowledge of the French culture in my own state while serving those who were affected by the Great Flood,” she said. “I felt honored to be able to represent my school in front of the Governor of Louisiana, the First Lady and many others. What a way to spread holiday cheer and French culture.”
Associate Principal and French teacher Jacqueline Labat expressed pride in the participating students. “I love watching them take part in a community event,” she said. “They are friendly, open and willing to perform any task to help others. It was a joy watching them interact with children and adults.”
Also participating were senior Sarah McDowell and junior Juliet Alise. SJA parent Kathy Balhoff joined Labat and Davis as an event chaperone.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Glynis Davis
Date posted: December 9, 2016