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Our Gaspé Home, Now and Forever

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The book! (Photo - Charlene Hayes)The publication of our book, Our Gaspé Home, Now and Forever, created a whirlwind of excitement in our halls and classrooms. It was not, however, our only triumph.

Plans had been in place for a number of months to have a ‘book launch’ so that members of the community could get to share in our success. In addition, it was decided from the outset that one of our student products was to be the writing of a song, which would express our thoughts and emotions about our home – the Gaspé. To us this seemed a natural thing to do. Music has reflected our history and our ties to the land for many decades.

During the writing of the book, Bobby Parent, a former student of our school with musical ties to the community, sat down with our students and had them compose a song, “Never Forget, Never Let Go”. Each student wrote a line that described an image uniquely personal to her that depicted a Gaspé scene – walking along sandy beaches, the red cliffs of Miquasha, the winding rivers and rolling mountains. The lines were arranged in logical sequence, the music was added and the song was born. Once more our students had stepped into the spotlight and risen above our expectations.

This was a song that would pluck the heartstrings of any true Gaspesian; it painted a picture of a land molded an eon ago by the hand of Creation and lovingly worked by people who came here with a desire to feed their families, to do well and set the stage for generations unborn. Our students are but one of those generations. We felt they had carried the torch with dignity and respect, and that their ancestors would have been proud of their oral rendition of the land that they, too, called home.

Composing the song with Bobby Parent. (Photo - Charlene Hayes)When we realized that we had something special in our hands, we felt very strongly that this had to be shared. We decided to fine-tune the song and prepare it to be unveiled publicly at the book launch.

Our principal, Byron Edwards, himself an accomplished guitarist, sat down with two of our students, Emily Caissy and Julie Roussy, to rework the song and prepare it for its public debut. Everything was coming together – the book had been written and published, the song was ready, and the plans for the book launch were proceeding nicely.

On October 17, 2007, the day broke gray and cloudy. However, we wouldn’t allow this to dampen our spirits. On that afternoon we’d be launching our book, and we looked forward with anticipation and confidence to meeting board officials, media, parents and other member of the community. Every student had a role to play – they were the debutants and this was their coming out party.

At one o’clock the festivities began. By the time it was over our students had once again made us proud. They had introduced the book that they had written, done interviews on CBC Radio, and with a reporter from SPEC and other local media, sung their song, and reveled in the praise that was showered upon them.

The launch! (Photo - Charlene Hayes)Our students’ identities had evolved; they had rewritten their own stories and now saw themselves as true citizens of the Gaspé, proud and strong. In no other way could this have been made clearer than when they were asked to write about themselves as Gaspesians, and invite the world to participate in the celebration of their new found identities. Their messages to the world were creative and inspiring, and for one final time they were asked to think about who they were – individually, as well as collectively.

Their “messages in a bottle” symbolized both the confidence with which they would walk into the future, and the security of the knowledge of where they came from and who they are. As a final gesture, four of our students, Bianca Landry, Kayla Servant, Britney Gaudin and Ben Court boarded a Zodiac driven by Alex Landry, also one of our students, and headed out into the Restigouche River Estuary where they launched 18 bottles, one for each of our students, containing a simple, common message – this is who we are; come celebrate with us!

It was a marvelous journey for all of us. We had started out with an idea for a school project – we were going to write a book about our families and our lives here on the Gaspé coast over the last couple of hundred years. What we didn’t realize was that the project – the unfinished product – was our students and ourselves. We saw the Gaspé as our ancestors once did; fresh, unspoiled, full of promise … it should always be so!

For more information regarding the project or for inquiries about the book, please contact Escuminac Intermediate School at (418) 788-5549.