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TBS Takes First Place at Congrès

Mrs. York

Mrs. York

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Le Congrès de cette année a été fantastiqué, meaning this year’s Congrès competition in Orlando was a fantastic success. One reason why is because several students in the Middle School earned blue ribbons, meaning they achieved first place in that particular event. Eighth grader Sai Chigurupati received the blue ribbon for reading comprehension, eighth grader Grace Kearns earned a blue ribbon for her poetry recitation, and both of them, along with fellow classmate Ella Pierman, earned a blue ribbon for their original skit. In addition, The Benjamin School earned first place overall in its division.

But what exactly is Congrès? According to the Congrès website, https://flfrench.weebly.com/, “Congrès de la Culture Française en Floride (CCFF) was established in order to attract the interest of students in Florida for language, literature and French civilization.” In other words, its goal is to cultivate an interest in the French language and culture, and to help students become more fluent.

This year, there were a total of 36 teams in the competition with 30 students from The Benjamin School, including the three eighth graders mentioned above: Chigurupati, Kearns, and Pierman. They competed in Orlando from March 8-10, and for them, it was a memorable experience.

Mrs. York
Sai holds up the blue ribbon he received as a result of his reading comprehension proficiency.

“I really enjoyed the competition because it was a chance to speak a different language for a few days and you do not get to do that very often,” said Chigurupati.“Congrès is very important to me because it is important to represent the school and be successful. It was really cool to come in first place because I can say I got first place in a high school competition,” he said.

Congrès has been a TBS tradition since the 1980s, and the students participate in activities with other students from other schools. They also get to eat French food and immerse themselves in the culture.  That’s the whole idea behind Congrès: immersion – a method of teaching a foreign language by using it in real-life conversations and situations. The whole tournament lasts a total of three days, with different events held each day. Students compete in these events and can achieve three different awards: supérieur (superior), excellent (excellent), or bien (good). Students can even win scholarships to colleges from this event.

However, the real reward is the experience the students get speaking the language and socializing with other students in different grade levels and from different schools.

“Not many students have this chance to speak a different language in a real-life scenario,” said Middle School World Language Department Chair and French teacher Mrs. Marci York. “The events are very complicated with many moving parts. First is the group competitions, the Middle school does a skit and the Upper school does a play. Next is the individual events, and lastly is the projects. I really like that the Middle school students have time to interact with Upper schoolers because they have a chance to get to really know students that are older,” said York, who made the trip with her students as she has done for the past 16 years.

The middle schoolers also enjoyed getting to know their high school counterparts.

“I really enjoyed spending time with the high schoolers because they treated me as if I was one of them,” said Kearns.

“I really appreciate the upper school students because they embraced me and treated me as if I was one of them,” said Chigurupati.

These connections, coupled with what they accomplished both individually and as a group, were especially satisfying for the middle school students.

“The most rewarding part was seeing how our hard work paid off,” said Pierman, whose parents both participated in Congrès when they were students at TBS. “I participated in the play, which was definitely a lot of work. Seeing the judges laugh when they were meant to was definitely a relief that we did a good job.”

Congrès was even a bit more stressful for Pierman, a flautist in the Middle School Performance Ensemble, as she also had a band performance at Universal Studios CityWalk that same weekend.

“During the competition, I had to be at two places at once,” she said. “I had my band recital on Friday, so I was unable to participate in any other competition besides the play, and I also was not able to watch the other competitors perform. However, the people were very supportive of me, and I am very thankful for that. I ended up doing very well in both of my competitions that weekend.”

Kearns also became interested in Congrès because of a family connection. “I did Congrès because my four older siblings attended it from their eighth-grade to their senior years in high school,” said Kearns.

However, her favorite part of the competition was when her most difficult task was over. “My favorite part of Congrès was after I recited my poem because I felt relieved that all of my competitions were over, and I could enjoy watching other Benjamin students compete,” said Kearns. “I also cannot wait to attend it next year because the experience was enriching and fun.”

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TBS Takes First Place at Congrès