Saturday, July 13, 2024

Cambridge Rindge & Latin School student Meghan Goodman sings “Beau Soir” during a Saturday fundraiser for a trip to France. The students and teachers raised $5,000 through raffles and auctions. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Cambridge Rindge & Latin School students exceeded their fundraising goal Saturday, bringing in close to $7,000 for a February trip to France.

That means all 14 students will be able to go, seeing tourist sites as well as living with host families and attending French schools. They will be able to test the French they’ve learned in the classroom — and, for some, at home — with that spoken on the streets of Paris. Future fashion student Deseray Crayton gets time in the heart of high fashion, and three teens from Haiti get to appreciate firsthand a land welcoming refugees from the devastation in their homeland.

“Haiti and France have a very friendly relationship. I know they’re helping out with the earthquake relief, and there are lot of Haitian refugees in France right now,” said Doulovely Nazaire, 18, who left Haiti when she was 6 and still speaks French at home with her aunt.

Wendy Aristil, 19, followed his mother to the United States from Haiti less than two years ago. While for some it might be a challenge to switch to European French after speaking Creole for so long, Wendy finds that “kind of easy”; for him, the trip is “to learn more about the culture. For my entire life, I used to see it on the TV and in expos and teachers used to talk about it, and now I’m going to live it,” he said.

The high school has dozens of French students. The few going on the trip — some later hosting students from France — have to fill out applications and be accepted as “mature, responsible students … the kids who truly want to learn,” explained Julia Leonardos, 14, who has studied French for two years and is “excited to be able to be completely immersed in the language.”

French students watch Saturday in the Freshman Academy gymnasium as prizes are handed out at their fundraising raffle and auction. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Maturity and responsibility were on display Saturday at the fundraiser in the Freshman Academy gymnasium. Students played lush and accomplished piano pieces (Rishi Patel played Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor and Joe Greenberg played more Chopin and his own arrangement of Joseph Kosma’s “Autumn Leaves”); charmed with guitar (French Club president Loic Bruderlein performed Jean Leloup’s “Je Joue de la Guitare”); sang beautifully (French student Meghan Goodman did a flawless “Beau Soir” by Claude DeBussy); and waited politely while seemingly innumerable raffle and auction winners were announced and handed out. And they applauded each time.

Some also contributed items or services to the raffles and auctions. Nazaire donated a wallet and bag and, like Leonardos and fellow travelers Lauren Stubbs and Emma Payne, both 15, a night of baby sitting; Aristil donated snow shoveling; Mara Zinky, 14, knitted a scarf and baked cookies; Payne and Iona McClellan, 16, donated dog sitting and walking; and Bruderlein, 17, donated guitar lessons. His mother’s band, Misty Blue, performed throughout the night and backing the event’s sing-alongs.

Their teachers also got into the action, with Kate Holmes donating a bag and Margot Murphy donating a book and photo album. (And School Committee member Nancy Tauber donated a bracelet.)

It was Murphy who revived the idea of a full exchange of French and U.S. students after about a decade without one. What was a regular event lapsed when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, complicated international travel. Launching the program has been team effort, especially of teachers Kate Holmes and Rita Muraca, she said. The teachers hope to keep this exchange program running once every two years.

Reviving a trip was proposed in the summer and approved in the fall. The go-ahead was given to start raising money for a trip involving 10 to 15 students, Murphy said. No school funding was provided.

While the families of some students could cover the cost of going to France, the teachers and school didn’t want a lack of money to keep others from going — from seeing the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay, Normandy and Versailles, from eating street crepes and proper baguette.

Between advance tickets and bids made Saturday, student and teacher efforts put the travel group “well over our goal,” parent Owen Dempsey announced at the end of the event. “Let’s remember that this makes it possible for the French Club and CRLS to live up to the ideals it set for itself, to send a large group to France, and that’s fabulous.”

In addition to nearly $4,000 raised from the Saturday event, $3,000 was given in straight donations, including two travel fellowships from the Friends of CRLS group. The money will help several students with nearly full or partial scholarships and with defraying other costs of travel and the hosting students from France, Murphy said. Some may be saved for use as seed money when the next trip is planned.

“It’s inspiring that in spite of the economic downturn, we found so much generosity,” Murphy said.

This story has been revised to reflect final fundraising figures.