Fake news is a hard enough topic for most of us to wrap our heads around but imagine having to write a whole essay about it. Now, imagine having to write that essay in a second language.
But three students from Roncalli High School in Avondale did just that and have received accolades for it.
Grade 11 students Claire Kennedy, Natalie Hepditch and Georgia Dalton have all received scholarships from the French for the Future (Français pour l'avenir) national essay contest.
“I’m very, very proud of all three girls,” said French teacher Susan Butler. “I’m not shocked that they won. That’s sort of what I promoted to them at the beginning; don’t sell yourself short, or think, ‘Why bother to submit this essay?’ because you never know what will happen. These three girls are living proof that if you do your best, and make an effort at things, you never know what can happen.”
Students had to submit a minimum of 750 words, entirely in French of course, on how fake news changed our relationship with the media.
“I think this topic was a little difficult myself, but they proved me wrong,” said Butler.
Hepditch was awarded a $2,000 scholarship for the University of Lethbridge for her essay on the impact of facebook news on our lives.
“I was really shocked when I found out that I won,” said Natalie. “But I felt really proud of myself.”
Kennedy was awarded a $4,000 for the University of Montreal for her essay on the importance of journalists obtaining all the facts before reporting news to the public.
“It was cool to know that I could accomplish something like that,” she said. “It was a bit of a confidence booster for sure, to know that I could do something like that.”
In her essay, she cited a 2018 study that found fake news reached 1,500 Twitter users six times as fast as verified news
For her essay on how fake news can influence people’s views on everything from medicine to politics, Dalton was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for the University of Ottawa
“I was really excited and a little shocked,” said Dalton. “I won last year, and didn’t expect to ever win one again.”
Meanwhile, Butler said that there are plenty of benefits to studying French, or any second language, in high school and beyond.
“It’s good for your career, its good for travelling, it’s good for your salary,” said the teacher. “I’ve had a couple of French monitors with me over the years from Quebec come into the classroom, and I always remember one of them said to the class, ‘It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if you’re applying for a job at Subway and you speak French and somebody else doesn’t, you’re going to get that job over that person.’ So, regardless of what type of job or career you’re looking for, having French certainly will be a benefit to you. And I know people who never though they would use French. I know a girl who sells road salt, and she has client in New Brunswick, and she said if she could speak French, it would be a benefit for her.”
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News