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Scecina students excel in state French competition (Les étudiants excellent à la compétition de français )

Scecina students were big winners at the 2019 Congrès as they competed with other middle-school and high-school French students from throughout Indiana.

“It was such a success for our students,” said Ms. Leila El-Murr, French teacher. 


 From left, Jacob Sitzman, Grace Swinefurth, Abby Page, Ms. El-Murr, Dontaye Hamilton went to Lafayette for the French competition.

Congrès is a competition in which the most passionate and hard-working French students compete every year, said Ms. El-Murr. 

Each student must participate in three to four events during the day-long competition. The events include history, culture, geography, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, poetry recitation, spontaneous speech, musical performance, sight reading, dancing and art posters. 

Congrès 2019 took place at West Lafayette Senior High School with 17 schools participating. The students range from middle school through high school. They compete against other students at their level for each event. 

Scecina junior Allie Foley received third place for her poster. Junior Abby Page received first place for poetry recitation. Dontaye Hamilton, also a junior, received third place for poetry recitation and fifth place for vocabulary. Sophomores Jacob Sitzman and Grace Swinefurth also competed.

"I was so surprised," Abby said of her first-place award. "It was a bit intimidating" to perform and recite before judges, she said. Abby, a French 3 student, also performed a piano piece by a French composer.

“I am so proud of all of them for deciding to participate,” said Ms. El-Murr. “The competition actively pushes students beyond their level.” 

The poem Dontaye recited, for example, is usually taught at the Advanced Placement (AP) level, Ms. El-Murr explained. Abby’s poem is usually taught in third-year year college French courses. 

The theme for the poster contest this year was "Le grand siècle" which is the Enlightenment during the 17th century in France.

“Allie was able to understand the complex and intersecting aspects of French history during the 17th century and synthesize it into a beautiful and symbolic poster,” said Ms. El-Murr. “Just participating in the competition is already such an amazing testament of their courage and ability.”

“Our students persisted and overcame self-doubt and fear, and they competed proudly,” said Ms. El-Murr. “I am so proud of them for not giving in to their anxieties. It is difficult when you don’t know what to expect.”

She believes it’s the first Congrès competition for Scecina. The students rose to challenge of facing other competitors from larger high school French programs.

She said students prepared both on their own and sometimes with her during their resource period or after school. Dontaye recited his poem each day in French class with his peers, who offered support and encouragement. 

Ms. El-Murr said she was proud of how Scecina showed “such a great team spirit” during their events. 

“They also helped each other navigate a new environment in West Lafayette high school and they all celebrated their successes together,” she said. 

“Also, I want to thank all the parents and guardians and mentors who were so supportive of the students to help them along the way, encouraging them to participate, following up on what they needed to do to prepare, and bringing them to Scecina at 6:50 a.m. on the day of the event.” 

Ms. Ellen Walsh, former French teacher and now assistant to President Joe Therber, also chaperoned the event, along with parents Tiffany Hamilton and Chris Swinefurth

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