By Scarlett Tharp
K-8 curriculum, teachers from all over the world, and a glittering atmosphere are just a few ways to describe Académie Lafayette, a French immersion school for all kids, big or small. Founded in 1999, it is a charter school “focus[ed] on helping each student become a critical thinker, engaged learner, and global citizen.” (Académie Lafayette, mission statement) Children are immersed in a deeply rich French culture from day one, when they enter the Cherry campus for elementary education. I attended Académie Lafayette all eight years of my primary school education, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Getting to not only learn multiple aspects of the French language, but also be exposed to different cultures was a life-changing experience only few will experience.
Just to start, students become completely fluent by their ninth year at Académie Lafayette. Teachers from a multitude of French-speaking countries (including Cameroun, France, Belgium, and multiple others) come to teach young students. These teachers are able to share their native cultures, religions, and dialects with students to offer them a broad view of the world. One of my teachers came from Senegal, and seeing photos of him back home and hearing lively stories of him and his siblings intrigues me and motivates me to continue researching different cultures.
Not only are students taught and exposed to new cultures, but they also get to live in an entirely new culture for two weeks. Before COVID-19 hit, AL’s sixth grade class traveled to France and stayed with a host family for a week, and in Paris with teachers for another. They travel to different cities in France, mostly in the south, and follow their families’ daily routines. Personally, I stayed in Pau, a city situated next to the Pyrenees mountains; I could see them from my window! My host kid’s name was Noa, and we became the best of friends. Getting to follow along with her to school, eating French dinners with her family, and learning all new slang was a truly enriching experience. As a student, I was exposed to a whole new world, all through AL.
After AL students’ return from France, their French hosts’ children, as well as other students from the correlating schools, are invited to stay with them and have the same experience. They stay for about two weeks and attend school, stay with a Kansas City family, and experience life as Americans. Normally, girls stay with girls, and boys stay with boys, but I was paired up with a boy. We still had just as much fun as any of the other pairings and seeing his amazement at all things American was such a fun experience. Académie Lafayette provides students with so many enriching and enjoyable experiences, such as getting to travel, meeting new people, learning amazing new things, and all while gaining fluidity in French.
Graduating and moving on to a non-immersion school made me realize how lucky I was to have had these experiences. I had created bonds with my peers that no other school’s students could imagine. We not only were together for nine years, but we shared a talent and multiple experiences that not many people in the world possess: speaking French. I still have many amazing Académie Lafayette friends today, and some of them I have classes with every day. We all understand how special our middle school experience was, and we cherish it, carrying it along with us for years to come, whether it be in studies, daily life, or simply in our hearts. Therefore, Académie Lafayette is Kansas City’s finest French immersion school.
“About.” Académie Lafayette, 23 Apr. 2021, https://academielafayette.org/about/.
Gibbs, Keleigh, and Hearst Television Inc. “Academie Lafayette's Planned Trip to France to Take on New Meaning.” KMBC, KMBC, 16 Apr. 2019, https://www.kmbc.com/article/academie-lafayette-s-planned-trip-to-france-to-take-on-new-meaning/27171418#.
“Que La Montagne Est Belle !” Pau Pyrénées Tourisme, https://www.pau-pyrenees.com/home/pourquoi-venir-chez-nous-/pau-mag/que-la-montagne-est-belle-.