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Lyon students teach French, broaden horizons for middle schoolers

Lyon College French Club members started a French enrichment class at Southside Middle School during the 2020 spring semester. Katie Cruse, John Pruden, and Wilson Borkowski presented nine weekly lessons to a group of 20 students.

“The purpose of the class is not only to teach about French,” Cruse said, “but also to open the students’ minds to diverse opportunities.”  

“I hope the class will help them see further than Arkansas,” said Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones.

Many of the Southside students were unaware that international experiences are accessible to kids in rural Arkansas. In response, the French Club members held a panel discussion to share the opportunities they have received as a result of studying French.

Cruse mentioned essay competitions and study abroad scholarships, Borkowski described visiting Paris during a Nichols Trip, and Pruden highlighted study abroad experiences and college scholarships.

In addition, Jones, a native of France, visited the class to discuss some unique cultural aspects of her home country.

“They seemed eager to know more about life in France,” she said. “I hope this class helps them be open-minded about other cultures.”

Cruse agreed, adding that “learning to respect cultural differences could help the students form positive relationships with their classmates, teachers, coaches, and future coworkers.”

To further encourage students to seek out opportunities, the volunteer teachers also discussed college life.

“I was surprised to find that most of the students felt like they couldn't afford a college education,” said Pruden. “That drove home how lucky I am to have the scholarship that I do.”

He advised the students to keep working hard on their education so they can receive student support at Lyon or another university.

Jones encouraged the students to pursue a college education, highlighting the unique advantages of Lyon’s liberal arts environment. 

“We showed these young students that professors in college are accessible, that we care about our students, and that all we want is to give them the tools to reach any goal they have.”

The experience was beneficial to the Lyon students leading the course, as well. 

“This is a fantastic learning experience for Lyon students,” said Jones. “They are fully in charge of developing and teaching the class and must be responsible, organized, and reliable.”

The Lyon students also enjoyed giving back to their college and community.

“Starting this class was my way to say ‘thank you’ to Lyon College,” Cruse said. “For three years, Lyon allowed me to take dual enrollment courses and participate in various campus activities. They helped open my eyes to opportunities, so I am glad to do that for others.”

Cruse hopes other Lyon students will offer new enrichment courses at Southside Middle School. 

Pruden concluded, “I am 100% going to do this again next year.”