By Darren Lum
The Canadian Parents for French have honoured one of Haliburton’s own for her dedication and efforts with the annual Mlacak Award.
Nancy Ballantyne a member of the Trillium Lakelands Haliburton Chapter of CPF for the past 15 years said she was humbled and honoured but recognizes there are many other deserving volunteers in the national organization. She said credit is owed to everyone who is part of the the non-profit charitable organization based in Haliburton County.
“You can’t win a volunteer award like this unless you have a good group of people who are behind you and there’s a core group of people – some are teachers and some are parents. It’s changed throughout the years” she said.
According to the CPF website it is named for Beth Mlacak and is a “special tribute” to her volunteer work. This award is given annually to a volunteer who has made an outstanding contribution to the national network of volunteers.
The mother of two daughters was given the award by CPF Ontario in October during the first of a two-day CPF conference in Toronto. Along with a dinner on Friday and paid accommodation she attended the second day of the conference the following day.
The conference included an annual general meeting guest speakers from the provincial government and a full day of educational sessions.
Ballantyne also appreciated the work that went into the nomination.
The local chapter’s treasurer Vanessa Meraw who joined three years ago because of her daughters nominated Ballantyne and said there was lots of support from parents teachers and CPF members as part of the nomination package.
Ballantyne and Meraw encourage parents guardians and teachers to join the CPF which advocates provides French resources and offers grants for cultural experiences and opportunities. The organization is funded by membership dues which are $25 per year or $60 for three years and donations. Sixty-five per cent of the funds raised through the dues is spent locally for French activities entertainers and resources such as dictionaries. CPF offers a variety of online resources through its website: on.cpf.ca.
This chapter supports French for everyone whether it’s the French immersion students or the core French students from Grades 4 to 8.
There are benefits of learning and speaking another language than English. Besides French being the official second language of Canada it offers greater opportunities for travel and business and speaking another language exercises the mind. High school students are welcome to not only improve their conversational French but help the younger students as a mentor and gain community volunteer hours necessary for graduation.
Although she is good at reading and writing French Ballantyne does not speak very well which was part of her motivation in her efforts with CPF.
She said it’s the CPF’s aim to help young people improve their command of the language and encourage French use outside of class through its various public chapter events such as concerts movie nights and games night – Jeuxdi.
“When we have something like Jeuxdi it’s not all French. We try to say to the kids … the core French teachers have said a lot of English is spoken there. You try to learn one or two words in French when you’re there. When a performer comes we don’t let the performer only speak in French. We have it bilingual so that people aren’t scared about the language” she said.
The local chapter was influential in bringing French immersion to Haliburton County.
Eighteen years ago a group of parents that included Ballantyne who wanted to provide immersion for her eldest daughter now in first-year university worked toward bringing French immersion to primary grade children. Three years later the amalgamation of the area school boards took effect. One of the residual benefits was that since other areas offered French immersion Haliburton County was eligible for the same. This was the when the local CPF chapter which was started by Mary Wilcox 15 years ago advocated and pushed for the start of French immersion at Stuart Baker Elementary School and then at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School. This chapter eventually became the Trillium Lakelands Haliburton CPF. The first French immersion graduates are now in their fourth year of university. Now the chapter is working toward encouraging the core French students to stay in French beyond the compulsory years.
“The majority of the French teachers in town all went through the core French program. They just continued on. When you graduate in Grade 12 whether you graduate from the core French program or the French immersion program especially if you’ve done some type of exchange then it strengthens your ability to really be bilingual” she said.
The local chapter is one of close to 150 in the country. It has not only promoted and created French learning opportunities but has also given the Haliburton library $1000 for French books which benefits the public and home schooled students. The generosity from the local chapter has also benefited J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School and the high school.
On Dec. 17 the local chapter is hosting a movie night at 6 p.m. with Blizzard at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School in Haliburton. The next Jeuxdi at JDHES is Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. Both are free for CPF members and donations are welcome for non-members.
See more information through the local chapter’s Facebook page CPF Haliburton.