Conseil scolaire francophone: for the love of French and sports

Keeping teenagers interested in school is a challenge for any high school. But for l'école des Pionniers-de-Maillardville in Port Coquitlam, the challenge is made more acute by being a smaller school with limited resources.

L'école des Pionniers-de-Maillardville is part of the Conseil scolaire francophone (CSF), or Francophone School District 93. As part of the B.C. public education system for more than 20 years, the CSF has offered an education in French to the francophone children of Port Coquitlam and surrounding areas.

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"In 2010, we realized that our high school needed a more active sports program to keep the teenagers interested; that's what the kids told us," says Eric Leclerc, principal of l'école des Pionniers-de-Maillardville. "So we joined the Greater Vancouver Independent Schools Athletic Association (GVISAA), a league for smaller schools like us."

Soon the school was joined by other high schools from the francophone school system, also looking for a place for their students to compete with other schools.

"My goal was simply to create a love of sports," says M. Leclerc. "Now we have a beginning hockey team and a strong soccer academy as well as a very successful girls' volleyball team."

A triathlon program was next on the agenda.

"We have about 30 kids in the program and in March they compete in the junior triathlons and run most of the 10km races in Vancouver. Some of them are then chosen to compete in the Grande Traversée, a 2,000 km bike race across Canada. It's very exciting."

The sports program at Pionniers-de-Mallardville has proven to be a great way to keep their teenaged students interested in school.

"In 2009," says M. Leclerc, "around 45 percent of the kids were transferring out of our school to English or French immersion schools. Now they want to stay here."

For more information about l'école des Pionniers-de-Maillardville or the CSF, please check the school's website at http://pionniers.csf.bc.ca, call 604.552.7915 or email eric_leclerc@csf.bc.ca. CSF can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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