French students win second place at Symposium


Shelley Stein

The French Symposium team came home with a second-place trophy.

With 36 French students, this year’s Texas French Symposium team took home a second-place trophy and was the largest team the School has ever brought to the annual statewide competition.

Mavericks also won the first-place trophy in the Baccalauréat competition, a quiz bowl-style tournament pitting teams of four against each other with questions on French language and culture.

Three students also ranked among the top-10 individual point scorers at the March 22-23 event, held this year at Plano East High School near Dallas. Freshman Romit Kundagrami placed sixth overall, his brother Raunak, a senior, placed eighth and freshman Leonardo Morales placed 10th.

This year’s Symposium drew some 700 students to compete in categories ranging from poetry recitation to sight reading.

For senior Juliana Aviles, who sang with the vocal group and placed fifth in prose recitation, the journey to Symposium was bittersweet: It was her fourth and final year competing. Aviles, along with 10 other seniors, has participated in the competition since freshman year.

“The seniors have become so much closer after each Symposium,” Aviles said. “I am sad that it was our last one, but also very happy that I got to spend those four Symposiums making great memories.”

Sophomore Charlotte Gillard, who also sang with the vocal group, which won third-place medals for their four-part rendition of “Il est Bel et Bon,” also appreciated getting to know other French students.

“It was really enjoyable singing with SJS students from multiple grades and bonding over French music,” Gillard said.

Students competed in events such as drama solo, poetry, sight reading and guided speaking. Many also submitted artwork pertaining to a chosen theme for visual events such as oil painting, comic strip and scrapbook. This year’s theme focused on the history and culture of the Normandy region, where American troops famously stormed beaches at the end of the Second World War.

Shelley Stein
Seniors Catherine and Margaret Gorman won fourth place in the Comic Strip category with their piece titled “Faux Amis.”

French teacher Shelley Stein organized logistics for the SJS team and worked the ballot room. At the same time, English teacher Brian Beard attended as a French-speaking chaperone to judge various rounds of the competition. They were also tasked with setting up a French bingo game on Saturday afternoon.

“The competition can be just as hectic for the adults as it is for the students,” Stein said.

Some students preferred to compete in events that would challenge their French reading comprehension and speaking skills.

Prose, in which students prepare and read aloud a three-minute excerpt, was a favorite event for Morales, who won a second-place medal in the category.

“The acting class that I am taking now at SJS helped me speak in a more direct and confident way when faced with judges, so I was not nervous at all,” Morales said.

During the awards ceremony, every time an SJS student won a medal, “the entire group was thrilled,” Romit said. “It wasn’t people’s worrying about their individual scores.”

The Kundagrami brothers high-fived when they were called to the stage for ranking in the top-10 scorers.  

“I did not really feel like there was any brotherly competition,” Romit said, adding that they were competing at different levels. “Ultimately it was just really nice to be able to place together because we both love French so much.”

Stein mentioned that the team felt an unspoken pressure to win first place like last year, yet she is happy with how students performed.

“I always say it’s not about winning trophies, even though that’s fun,” Stein said. “It’s really about the camaraderie that forms while the kids are together.”

Gillard said she also enjoys meeting Francophiles from all over the state.  

“It’s really cool to connect with students from other schools at Symposium,” Gillard said. “It’s interesting to talk to other people from different areas and hear about the French community at their schools.”