Two Bishop Hendricken High School students have brought honor to the high-achieving school by each ranking first in the nation on the National French Contest. This is the first time a student from the school has earned that recognition.
Matthew Beaune, Class of 2016, and Tyler Williams, Class of 2015, both received perfect scores on their respective exams, ranking them first nationally and statewide on the exam. Beaune took the Level One test, while Williams took the Level Two test.
According to Hendricken Modern Languages Department Chairman Joseph Theroux, this is not only the first time a Hendricken student has ranked first nationally on the exam, but the first time a student from Rhode Island has received a perfect score.
“And we had two such winners,” said Theroux.
“It is really cool,” said Beaune about his accomplishment.
When he took the test for the first time last year (there is a junior high level, Level 01), he ranked eighth in the state and ninth nationally.
“Taking the test last year, I had an idea of what to expect, and we took practice tests in class beforehand,” said Beaune.
He said the added practice and experience certainly helped put him over the edge.
“It is a hard test and it gets harder every year,” said Theroux, who teaches French and Spanish at the school.
Theroux also served as the exam’s state coordinator in previous years. He explained that his students used practice exams from 2009, 2010 and 2011 to prepare.
“They got a sense of how the test is set up,” explained Theroux.
Beaune, who used to be a Warwick Beacon carrier before high school, has enjoyed studying French over the past three years and thinks it could benefit him in the future.
“I keep thinking one day I might use this or meet someone who is fluent in the language and be able to talk with them,” he said.
The national test, which consists entirely of multiple-choice questions, features a variety of sections to test one’s knowledge of the language, including grammar and reading. Beaune said the most difficult section for him was a listening portion.
“I’d say listening to a dialogue and listening to the question [was difficult] because you had to understand what you heard and not read it,” said Beaune.
He explained in that particular section, participants would listen to a recorded question and choose the appropriate response from a list of choices.
Beaune and Williams were not the only Hendricken students to rank first for their foreign language skills.
In total, a press release on the school’s website listed six students from Hendricken earning first place honors on their respective exams in their respective languages.
Class of 2016 member Jonathan Celico ranked first in Rhode Island for Level One on the National Italian Examination.
For the National Spanish Examination, Kevin Madoian of the Class of 2015 received a gold medal for Level Three, while Sean Kelly, Class of 2014, and Christopher Lafen, Class of 2013, both received gold medals for Level Four.
Theroux explained that scoring of the Spanish Examination is formatted differently from the other two. All students that earn a score within the top 90 to 95th percentile earn a gold medal.
“This is probably the best year we have had in terms of the foreign language exams,” said Theroux, who credits the success to more students being able to take the exam.
In previous years, the exam needed to be taken on a Saturday morning, which conflicted with other activities. Now students have the option to take the test at school during the week.
“We are able to test online, in-house,” said Theroux.
Theroux also said there has been an increase in students taking his class; he has 60 students in French I, the highest in recent years.
In total, Theroux estimates 75 students took the French and Spanish exams; he was not sure how many participated in the Italian exam.
“There was excitement, definitely in my class,” said Beaune of the environment around the school when scores were announced. “A lot of students placed high. A few of my friends ranked second.”
One person who is especially proud of Beaune’s accomplishment is his mother, Jill.
“It is an incredible feeling. We are so proud,” said Jill. “Just to see him have this kind of success in his freshman year is impressive.”
In the future, Beaune hopes to keep his spot at the top when he takes the Level Two exam next year and high levels throughout his high school career.
“At Hendricken, you are required to take foreign language for two years and then you can choose,” explained Beaune. “I plan on continuing [until graduation].”
According to the announcement on Hendricken’s website, a total of 56 students received either Rhode Island or national honors for their scores on the various modern language tests for this year. All students will be honored for their achievements on the exam during Hendricken’s Honors Night tonight.