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Inspire: Chanelle Lalonde is happy to be able to get back to volunteering

École secondaire catholique Champlain student is ‘always positive, encouraging and empathetic,’ school adviser says
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Chanelle Lalonde, a Grade 12 student at École secondaire catholique Champlain, in Chelmsford, is an inspiring young leader and students' council prime minister.

There is a large map of the world and photographs of vacations under the glass top on the Lalonde family's dinner table. Eventually, the area will be covered with photos as the Azilda family of six travels to places near and far.

Luc and Chantal Lalonde's oldest daughter, Chanelle, 17, is just about to embark on what she hopes is a fulfilling future with lots of travel. She is poised to take advantage of all opportunities open to her.

In the fall and winter of 2020, Chanelle was looking forward to a trip to Peru with a small group of students. The humanitarian mission was cancelled like so many activities, so the money students raised for the trip was donated to community organizations to support various campaigns and causes.

"I feel like I am 15 … I lost a year and a bit (of life)" due to COVID-19 lockdown, which closed schools, said the Grade 12 student at École secondaire catholique Champlain in Chelmsford.

She and her three siblings and her parents, both teachers, spent months together in close quarters studying (and teaching) remotely.

Now that life is returning to almost normal, Chanelle is back in class and busy juggling her studies and numerous extracurricular interests. She also has a part-time job at a grocery store where she works in the bakery.

An inspiring young leader and role model for other students, she has been on the students' council since Grade 9 and this year was elected council prime minister.

Currently, she is working on plans for a Halloween event that sounds like fun. To keep everyone at safe distances in these challenging times, the event will be spread out over the day so older students can take part in the morning with younger students participating in the afternoon.

École secondaire catholique Champlain is a small high school of about 300 students where teachers get to know their students well and encourage them to get involved in school and community activities.

Annual school events such as dances as well as a 24-hour "famine" and a sleep-out, which raise awareness of people in need and the homeless, have been cancelled this year. 

Pre-Covid 19, Chanelle was an enthusiastic participant and also took part in her school's environmental awareness campaigns such as waste-free dinners and the water walk.

She's raised money for the CTV Lions Club Christmas Telethon, collected food for food drives and volunteered at the soup kitchen.

The teen spent three weeks in Moncton, N.B., in 2019 as a participant in the Destination Clic program for Francophone students who live outside of Quebec. Her expenses were covered by the federal government. 

Destination Clic is designed to enhance French-speaking skills and strengthen Francophone roots.

"Chanelle is very proud of her French (heritage)," said Carol Bradley-Whissel, the students' council staff adviser. "She is one of a kind. She is always positive, encouraging and empathetic. She is always willing to help and offer suggestions. If I had a daughter, I would want one like her."

Chanelle plans to attend Laurentian University in the fall, and in the meantime, she is enjoying just being a kid.

She hasn't chosen a career path nor does she have her life mapped out yet. 

but she does hope to travel to Greece and Italy someday. 

"The food looks delicious," she said.

Vicki Gilhula is a Sudbury freelance writer.