A reprint from Article by ROBERT
JONES, Special to the Morning Advocate, Baton Rouge, La,
The Acadian Memorial was recently awarded $20,000 in grants, and museum administrators and local students were honored with a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet first lady Laura Bush.
Members of the museum staff and students had been working for more than a year on a project called “Let the Children Speak,” which preserves the history of Acadian children exiled to Louisiana from Canada and got the museum accolades and much-needed funding.
A private tour of the White House and the meeting with Laura Bush was followed by a midnight tour of Washington national monuments.
The Acadian contingent was also given a tour of the Carnegie Library and met History Channel spokeswoman Cokie Roberts, a native of New Orleans.
“We were treated like royalty, and it was an unforgettable experience,” museum Director Brenda Trahan said. “We met Laura Bush in the China Room … and we were given one of the few tours of the White House since Sept. 11, 2001. Mrs. Bush was beaming and expressed how proud she was of the project and local students’ work in the classroom to earn the grant.”
Trahan and museum grant writer Sylvia Bienvenue first applied two years ago, but were successful on their second attempt. “On our first attempt, we were in the top 50 of 600 grants, but fell a little short,” the director said. “Later, we received a letter from the History Channel for us to reapply, and that is when the magic really began to happen.”
Trahan said the program was geared to create a new school curriculum.
She said research compiled for the project also will be included in the museum presentation, in which a large mural of the first Acadians comes to life as individuals in the work of art are highlighted and their stories told to visitors.
For the first time, children also will be included in the mural presentation.
The museum received a $10,000 grant from the History Channel as well as a second $10,000 community grant from Lowe’s for its work.
Andrew Schwing, a student at Catholic High School in New Iberia, said his work in researching an Acadian child was rewarding, as was the trip to the nation’s capital.
“It was a wonderful trip, and it was so awesome to meet Laura Bush,” he said. “I was proud to be part of the Acadian project, and I enjoyed learning about our local history.”
Along with a lot of hard work and a fun trip as a reward, Schwing said, there were more personal, long-lasting effects from the project.
“The history of the Acadians impacted my life and made me think differently because I would never want to be separated from my family and homeland,” he said.
Trahan agreed that the project and ensuing trip had a lasting impression on the participating students.
“On the way home, the kids could not stop talking about the wonderful experience,” she said. “On the flight, one student sat beside a soldier of Acadian ancestry from Lake Charles. When she told the soldier why she was in Washington, D.C., he was touched to the point he cried. No one will soon forget the wonderful experience.”
Grant writer Bienvenue said the project has not only gotten the Acadian Memorial national recognition, but also led to much local support for the museum’s “Let the Children Speak!” project.
“This honor has led to support and cooperation unimagined by us in the
beginning,” she said. “It has helped to fulfill a dream of the Acadian
Memorial to unite our extended Acadian community to research and disseminate
the true stories of the Acadian people.”
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