Cookville student wins national honour

Madeleine Robitaille chosen as recipient of Vimy Pilgrimage Award

KELSEY POWER PHOTO Madeleine Robitaille stands proudly in front of the Acadian flag at her school.

Madeleine Robitaille stands proudly in front of the Acadian flag at her school.

Madeleine Robitaille will soon be speaking French in France.

The Centre scolaire de la Rive-Sud Grade-10 student has won the Vimy Pilgrimage Award.

“I’m very proud to have won this award, said Madeleine, who is 15 years old.

“I’m very proud to be Canadian and to be going to France and I’m really looking forward to it.”

She’s one of 20 students from across Canada between 14 and 17 years of age who have been chosen to spend a week in Vimy, France. It’s a fully funded educational program from April 5 to 13.

The Vimy Foundation chose these applicants from letters of less than 500 words.

The letter had to express why the applicants were worthy of the award, which recognizes the actions of young people who demonstrate outstanding service, positive contributions, notable deeds, bravery or leadership towards their peers, schools, communities, province or country.

“I wrote an essay about what it means to be Canadian, and why history is important,” said Madeleine, who spoke in her letter of her grandfather’s time as a World War II soldier in France and why remembering the world wars is important.

She wrote the piece in both official languages.

“Both French and English are important to me, and you could submit an essay in either French or English, and I thought I am a bilingual student and ‘I want to show that because I’d be going to France,’” she said.

This had to be accompanied by two supportive reference letters.

Madeleine’s guidance counsellor, Lise Petrie, and her English teacher, Laura Connors, wrote these on her behalf.

“It was an easy decision to nominate her, because she’s so highly involved in her community and such a great academic student, but also because of her passion for history,” said Ms Connors, who has taught Madeleine the subjects of social studies, technology education, French and English over the past three years.

“I thought of her right away. I just knew that this was an award that she would really appreciate, the experience of going and getting to see Vimy Ridge and those different areas that Canadians fought.”

Madeleine is on the student council of her school. She helps create a positive atmosphere and organizes activities such as winter carnival for the student body. She participates in a school-related Jeunes en action club, which is raising money to build a school for underprivileged children in Haiti and has also organized food drives for the local food bank, toiletry drives for the local women’s shelter and a fundraiser for the local charity Christmas Daddies. Outside of school she volunteers with Tusarnaarniq Sivumut Association: Music for the Future, an organization helping to send musical instruments and instructors to youth in Northern Canada. This activity is close to her heart as she plays the violin, saxophone and clarinet. She also helps coach elementary school basketball and teach a children’s violin group in her community.

Mathematics is her favourite subject, but she’s enjoyed writing since Grade 2, after having an encouraging teacher.

While the students are visiting Vimy they will study Canada’s First World War effort, through classroom education as well as field trips to important related sites including war museums, memorials and battlefields.

They will also spend some time in Paris, where they will sightsee, view the art of the Louvre and – something Madeleine is especially excited for – stop by a chocolate factory.

Madeleine’s essay was chosen from over 200.

She first heard of the award last year from a judge at the Nova Scotia Provincial Heritage Fair, where she was showing her project on the Battle of Passchendaele.

“I’m pretty sure she hasn’t been to Europe yet, so I’m really excited for her to just have that experience of going to another country. I got to travel a bit in high school and it changes who you are,” said Ms Connors.

“I’m excited for her to meet other like-minded Canadians and actually live a part of our history.”

The group will have three chaperones for the trip.

This is the third year of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award. It is sponsored in part by Canada’s History and EF Educational Tours Canada.

“I’m really excited about seeing the battlefields and knowing what soldiers did so that we could be here today,” said Madeleine.

As originally published by LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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