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New program highlights Louisiana's French culture

Students of Louisiana Heritage Connections showcase their new curriculum for legislators, stakeholders, and parents in Abbeville.
Louisiana Heritage Connections
Students of Louisiana Heritage Connections showcase their new curriculum for legislators, stakeholders, and parents in Abbeville.

ABBEVILLE, La. – Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser recently helped celebrate the unveiling of a new curriculum which exposes students to the rich world of Louisiana Cajun and Creole music, arts, language, and cultural history through hands-on learning and real-life, local cultural experiences. Developed by Vermilion Parish Schools Arts, Music, and Foreign Language Supervisor Madeline DeHart and launched in 2022 for students in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana Heritage Connections – or Lâche Pas (meaning “don’t let go”) as it’s affectionately called – could be available to all students in Louisiana. Vermilion Parish students showcased the curriculum to stakeholders and legislators last week, demonstrating the seven modalities of their learning: music, art, dance, history, language, traditions, and cuisine.

“This should make everyone incredibly proud of our teachers, our schools, and our students. This is an incredible program and I hope to see it expand all over Louisiana,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “Our culture, history, food and music are not like anything else across the country. It is important for the Cajun culture and its traditions to be documented so we do not lose a big part of the heritage Louisiana is known for. The new curriculum will also help promote the French culture – one of the many reasons people visit to Louisiana.”

The school system received a $1 million federal grant through the Louisiana Department of Education to teach children local heritage. Currently, three Vermilion Parish schools – René Rost Middle School in Kaplan, Erath Middle School in Erath, J. H. Williams Middle School in Abbeville – teach the curriculum with a goal of providing instruction to approximately 150 students in six schools for the 2024-2025 school year. More schools are planned to be phased in gradually over three years.

Louisiana Heritage Connections is an after-school elective that provides students enrolled in the curriculum to learn, use, and practice the French language. Additionally, these students interact with students not enrolled in the class providing them an invaluable connection with the culture of their ancestors.

The Louisiana Office of Cultural Development and the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) support Louisiana’s francophone communities through scholarships, French immersion and other community and language skill-building programs.