OLD PERLICAN, NL — Some students at Baccalieu Collegiate found significant success at the recent Heritage Fair.
Any student with a knack for history would likely love the opportunity to travel to France for an all-expenses-paid trip to see places of significance during the First World War. This dream became a reality for grade eight student Makayla Spence-Kelly, who was one of 19 students chosen from across the province for their Heritage Fair Ambassador Program projects.
The Ambassador Program is a joint initiative between the Department of Education and the Department of Business, Tourism, and Rural Development that launched in 2015.
The program gives students participating in the Heritage Fair to study and explore the events of World War I for their projects, as opposed to the normal topics usually covered by students taking part in the Heritage Fair.
Spence-Kelly’s project focused on Lieutenant Colonel (Padre) Thomas Nangle, who served as chaplain of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 1916-1918.
“I did my project on him because he was, pretty much, forgotten since he left priesthood in 1926. I don’t think he deserved that because what he did was amazing,” she said of her project. “When Mr. (David) Barrett offered us the Ambassador Program, I mentioned it to my grandfather, who said I definitely had to do it on (Nangle).”
She told The Compass that “tons of hours” of work went into this year’s project, starting with a book given to her by her grandfather. From there, the research process began between herself and her mother. She said this phase of the project was an important one, as participants in the Ambassador Program were interviewed in-depth about their project’s topic.
“I think a lot of the project is in the presentation, of course, but there’s also a lot of emphasis on the student’s understanding of the topic,” Barrett said. “No doubt, Mikayla had a lot of knowledge when it came to her topic.”
Now, Spence-Kelly, and the other selected students, are preparing for a trip to Northern France, where they will take part in a European battlefield tour throught France and Belgium.
They will visit significant sites where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought during the First World War, including the five different towns that serve as home to the bronze Caribou monuments – the official memorial to the regiment.
“The Heritage Fair has always been something that I’ve taken pride in, mostly because I was always really interested in what I was doing it on,” Spence-Kelly explained. “Every year I’ve been wanting to do something different, but always something I was interested in – not just doing it because I had to.”
This four-year dedication to the Heritage Fair paid off when Spence-Kelly was told about her opportunity to travel to France. She said she’s looking forward to her first trip to the country, and the chance to experience things she’s learned about in class firsthand.
“It’s exciting, because we’re going there for a reason. It’s not just a trip, it’s a chance to experience it in a totally different way,” she said, noting that she still can’t believe she’ll be heading to Europe in just a little over a month.
This year’s Heritage Fair was not just exciting for Spence-Kelly, though. Longstanding Heritage Fair participants Alyssa Barrett and Karlie Squires came out of this year’s fair with the Regional Fair Award for the 2017-2018 school year – the highest award offered at the regional Heritage Fair.
Alyssa and Squires have both been taking part in the fair as a duo for the last six years. Now, both grade nine students are happy to say all the hard work paid off, as they finish their stint in the fair with the top award.
This year, their project examined isolated communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the topic of re-settlement.
They said the idea came to them after a trip to Rencontre in 2017, and they worked away at it ever since.
“We feel very accomplished,” said Squires. “We finally got the big award that we’ve had our eyes on all these years. We’re perfectionists, so we just loved working on these cool projects over the years. It’s very rewarding.”
“We love working together, too, so we were always motivating each other to keep going. It’s just nice to see it all pay off,” added Alyssa.