School Year Abroad recently celebrated the golden anniversary of SYA France with a multi-day celebration that took place in Rennes and Paris.
The festivities began in Rennes on Friday, March 24, with an afternoon architectural walk designed by faculty member Benjamin Sabatier and led by students. The evening featured a mayoral reception held at Salons de l'Hôtel de Ville de Rennes with over 375 alumni, parents, current and former faculty, current students, host families, and local dignitaries. The reception included a formal presentation of a certificate of appreciation to Jocelyne Bougeard, deputy chair of international relations from the city of Rennes, in recognition of the city's commitment and dedication to the betterment of the lives of SYA France students and faculty, as well as to their families. SYA France Resident Director Denis Brochu was honored for his 10 years of loyal service in advance of his retirement at the end of June. The reception concluded with the singing of both the American and French national anthems.
Proceedings continued early Saturday morning with Back-to-School sessions hosted by SYA France faculty and current students. Classes were interactive as alumni and parents participated in French literature, history and language mini-lessons. This was followed by an option for guests to join student-led tours of le Marché des Lices, the second largest open-air farmers market in France. There was also an open house at l'Institute Franco-Américain, the original home of SYA France where students attended classes from 1967 until 1981 when the school moved to its permanent home, Villa Alvarez. Art history teacher J.P. Lemée hosted a special gallery talk on his "Stoc An Vrac'h" exhibition at Galerie DMA.
On Saturday evening, Alexandra Alger FR'79 CN'12P and Kristin Lund Vosmik FR'81 FR'16P ES'17P, SYA France 50th Anniversary Celebration co-chairs and trustees, welcomed SYA President Tom Hassan and guests to the Soirée de Gala at L'Opéra de Rennes. Guests enjoyed cocktails and camaraderie while celebrating the rich history of SYA France following a performance of alumni and student talent as part of the special occasion. Alumni in attendance represented 34 out of the SYA France classes, which was a tremendous turnout.
Entertainment at the gala was provided by alumna Madeline Fuhrman FR'10 who performed two original songs, one of which she wrote during her year in Rennes. The song is featured in the 2016 movie, 1 Night. Current SYA France students also participated in the celebration:Anna Siegel sang and was accompanied by Elma Hoffman on piano, and Hileena Channell provided personal reflections on her year in Rennes through performance poetry.
A presentation was made by Alice Conklin FR'74 FR'07P, professor of history at The Ohio State University. Conklin is an awarding-winning scholar and author, as well as a noted cultural, political and intellectual historian of Modern France and its Empire with a focus on the 20th century. The formal program ended with a poignant talk from Jess Baily FR'77, the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia and career Foreign Relations officer, who shared insights and perspectives on his service to the United States, the power of SYA and the importance of building bridges.
Speaking about the success of the weekend's event, Hassan said, "Our deepest appreciation goes to the City of Rennes and to the many host families over the decades that have made SYA France the success that it has been for the past 50 years. Honoring SYA in the remarkable city of Rennes in spectacular locations like the Opera House and City Hall reminds us of our good fortune as well as our responsibility as global citizens. SYA's role in guiding young people to be more thoughtful and engaged individuals is more important than ever. We are confident that these future leaders will make the world a better place."
Following Rennes, many guests continued the celebration in Paris culminating with an event at the Ambassador's Residence where Chargé d'Affaires Uzra S. Zeya congratulated SYA on its 50-year history in France and reinforced the positive mission of understanding foreign cultures and becoming global citizens.
For more information about the event, visit SYA France at 50.