For Aurellia Peters, her passion for the French language has provided a head start in paying for her post-secondary education.

The Grade 11 student at Altona's W.C. Miller Collegiate is among six Manitobans to win a national essay contest put on by French for the Future. She is one of three finalists selected in the French as a Second Language category, winning a $3,000 scholarship to Université de Saint-Boniface.

"At first, I was very shocked, and I was very caught off guard and I actually didn't believe it was true," she said as she described her reaction to the news. "And then I went to my teacher's classroom, the classroom that I'm in for a period during my day, and she was like, 'Oh my goodness. I've known for two weeks. I just couldn't tell you'. And I was like, oh my goodness, I can't believe this. And then we both cried and hugged. So yeah, it was really unbelievable," she added, noting this recognition means a lot to her.

With the Olympic Games scheduled to take place on Francophone soil this year in Paris, entrants had to write a French language essay convincing the 2024 Olympic Committee that their incredible talent should be selected as a new Olympic discipline. Peters selected CrossFit. 

"Because they don't have a CrossFit program in the Olympics. They have different kinds of things, but not actually CrossFit," explained Peters, who used to do CrossFit and is looking at getting back into it. "I like that everyone in the area, especially here, is super welcoming. It's like a one big family and everyone's there for the same reasons. Everyone's super supportive and it's just a great environment to be in."

Peters has been enrolled in French Immersion education since kindergarten and says there are many career and travel opportunities that become available when you know the language. She noted, her history with French paid off in writing this essay.

"There were some challenges that I faced throughout that but again, my teacher helped me throughout all of it and helped me edit it, made sure it was perfect."

The scholarships are intended to encourage young people to continue their post-secondary studies in French, either fully or partially. After graduation, Peters plans to attend the four-year education program at Université de Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg to become either a French Immersion or English teacher.

"I want to stay close to my family. It's not too far away. And I want to go to that school because I was given this opportunity for one, and second of all, I love French, and I want to keep that with my teaching, and I don't want to lose that."

For many of the participants, this opportunity to write in French is rare, and highly appreciated. It allows them to challenge themselves, improve their French, and increase their sense of self-efficacy in the language.

"I feel like no matter what, just don't give up on yourself, especially if you are someone who's learning something new or you don't want to stick with it," offered Peters. "I say stick with that because you get opportunities like this that you might never have thought that you would have." 

Nearly 450 Canadian students submitted entries to the contest.