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Experience Franco American History at Franco Center 

LEWISTON, ME (April 6, 2023)—Students have found opportunities to learn about Franco American culture, people, traditions, and history at the Franco Center through collaborative hands-on projects. This school year, Bates College Professor Mary Rice-DeFosse is teaching “French in Maine,” described as a course that leads students to, “An appreciation and analysis of what it means to speak French and to be ‘French’ in the local and regional context. Students examine questions of language, ethnic identity, and cultural expression through novels, short stories, autobiographies, film, and written and oral histories. Visits to local cultural sites enhance students’ understanding of the Franco-American community and its heritage as well as other French speakers.” 

“We appreciate collaborations with Bates College Professor DeFosse and her students,” said Denise Scammon, Franco Center marketing director. “Currently, Deniz Yucel, an international student at Bates College, has organized items in our gift shop and library that staff otherwise would not have the time to inventory. Deniz is multilingual and has written a descriptive paragraph in both English and French about each book in our gift shop. This is an immense help to us.” 

Yucel is a first-year student at Bates College double majoring in economics and mathematics. She was surprised by the number of artifacts donated to the Franco Center over the years by community members.  “Lewiston-Auburn is a small community, yet in the Franco Center, there are enough donated artifacts to call the collection a ‘little museum,’” said Yucel. “I learned about the Franco Americans in my history course and was very interested in learning more. So I enrolled in the ‘French in Maine’ course to continue learning about the Franco Americans; their stories and history came to life for me at the Franco Center.” 

Other collaborative student-Franco Center projects include helping with tours of the former St. Mary’s Church in which the tour guide relates stories about local Franco American people and heritage. French students such as Yucel who can speak both English and French, are a benefit to the nonprofit for their assistance in telling stories in French. This is important to Franco Center staff because teachers of French and their students are among those who take tours at the Franco Center.   

Another project of importance that DeFosse’s students help with at the Franco Center is the ability to translate written works from English to French and vice versa. These texts include historical anniversary booklets from the former St. Mary’s Church and its school, exhibit signs, Le Messager newspapers, and Franco American magazines. 

“There are so many different things happening at the Franco Center that there is something to do for everybody, from listening to great music to learning about the history of the immigrants to Lewiston,” said Yucel. “People are missing an opportunity to enjoy the offerings of a place this close to them if they don’t visit. I recommend everyone visit at least once; the amazing people who work at the Franco Center would be happy to welcome you!”  

Scammon noted that the historical displays and exhibits throughout the former church building are constantly being updated and at least four times a year the Franco-American Collection at USM assists with those exhibit updates by bringing items from their collections to the Franco Center. “At least four times a year the exhibits in Heritage Hall are updated to meet a theme to go along with our four La Rencontre luncheons. Themes over the past year have included the local Franco American social clubs including a big display about the snowshoe clubs,” said Scammon. “Other themes have featured notable local Franco Americans, St. Jean de Baptiste, and the Grey Nuns. We have so many more themed exhibits planned. Deniz is a great assistant in curating items for those displays from the historical artifacts we have collected over the years.” 

For more information about student collaborations with the Franco Center, educators are advised to contact Denise Scammon at 207-261-5240 or 

The Franco Center is at 46 Cedar Street in Lewiston. More information can be found on its website at

 Deniz Yucel, a Bates College student, has been collaborating with the Franco Center for several months while enrolled in Professor Mary Rice-DeFosse’s course, “French in Maine.” Yucel says she is amazed at the historical artifacts at the Franco Center and suggests that history fans visit the Center to learn more. The Franco Center gives tours by appointment. Call 207-261-5240. The Franco Center is at 46 Cedar Street in Lewiston. Its building is a former church. Submitted photo. 

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