Local French Catholic students have a milestone to smile about

·3 min read

Students from all over Ontario are sharing their smiles.

Conseil scolaire catholique de district des Grandes Rivières (CSCDGR) joined with seven other Francophone Catholic school boards across the province to celebrate 25 years of French Catholic education with the Smile Challenge.

“We sort of joined forces to create this contest because we wanted to celebrate our 25 years of existence in the province together,” said Catherine Mongenais, communications officer for CSCDGR. “We wanted to do that in a special and uplifting sort of way.”

Students were invited to submit artwork of smiles, and voting for the finalists is happening now on the Ecole Catholique website at ecolescatholiquesontario.ca/defisourires/cscdgr/ .

“We wanted every age to be able to participate,” said Mongenais. “So with the contest, creating smiles, it allows for creativity to spring out, and it was an exciting thing for any age group.”

Timmins students from École catholique Don-Bosco, École catholique St-Gérard, and École Catholique Jacques-Cartier are in the final 12 selection for this district and anyone can cast a vote for their work, but only one vote can be cast a day.

Mongenais said that the number of submissions and the engagement in the district were incredible.

“Our school board did really, really great,” she said. “We expected for people to participate, but at that level, it was really crazy.”

“Honestly I wish we could have had more than 12 finalists,” said Mongenais. “There were hundreds of them that were so creative, and so many who thought outside of the box, or had many students participate in one picture. It was really beautiful to see.”

Rene Gaudreau, director of communications for CSCDGR, said watching the organic growth of the event through social media posts from teachers and schools has been very exciting.

“Teachers are going out of their way to post their kids’ stuff from their classes to get as many votes as they can,” he said. “My feed is full of smiles!”

He said that seeing some of the submissions that included aspects of the Catholic faith was great to see.

“Some of them had the kids praying, and they really went toward showing the Catholic side of our education, because we are celebrating 25 years of Catholic education in Ontario, and that’s really significant for us,” he said. “It was nice to see those who went a little bit further into those aspects.”

Mongenais said that seeing the Franco-Ontarian representation in the smiles also felt very important.

“Some of them included the Franco-Ontarian flag in there and stuff like that,” she said. “When people were submitting smiles, they could include a little sentence on what their smile represented, and some of them had very meaningful explanations.”

Mongenais said that it’s not just school spirit inspired by the event, but community spirit too.

“I’m hearing from a lot of teachers saying that their classes are voting every day,” said Mongenais. “I’ve seen some people share, and they have no kids in the school but they're from those smaller towns, and they want their school to win!”

Voting ends on Sunday, and the winners will be announced on May 10.

First place will receive $300, second will get $200, and third place will get $100.

“The goal is to add a little smile in people’s lives,” said Mongenais.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com