Creating a virtual community one minute at a time
With the precipitous closure of CEGEPs due to COVID-19, many activities that make CEGEPs stimulating living environments and showcase student talent were cancelled. Gilbert Forest, a socio-cultural facilitator at Cégep André-Laurendeau, and its student services teamed up with the Théâtre Desjardins (a performance hall located inside Cégep André-Laurendeau) and la Brigade Liseurs Publics [in French] (the Public Readers Brigade) to create and maintain a Facebook page, La Minute Cultur.AL [in French], to connect with the students and break the isolation caused by the confinement. I spoke with Gilbert Forest to learn more about this unifying project.
For more than 4 years now, Gilbert Forest has been using Facebook to relay the activities of his CEGEP through his professional page (Gilbert Socio AL [in French]). He publishes all of his institution's activities and student success stories. He has been able to create a unique connection with the students. For many young people, the abrupt end of the session put an end to projects and activities to which they had devoted a lot of time and energy:
- dance and theater groups
- improvisation league
- literary activities
- Cégeps en spectacle regional finals
A few days after the announcement of the CEGEP closing, Gilbert Forest received a phone call from Annie Champoux. As Cultural Mediation Project Manager at Théâtre Desjardins, where several CEGEP socio-cultural events take place, she wanted to brainstorm on ways to continue the CEGEP's cultural development while involving students and staff.
Annie Champoux's call was the push needed to get the idea of creating short, one-minute videos off the ground.
Thus, was born La Minute Cultur.AL [in French]! Gilbert Forest called on one and all, and by the first weekend, he had already received many videos.
The general idea was to support staff and students for 10 weeks in their distance learning session. Similar to the daily government press briefings, La Minute Cultur.AL was held 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at noon. Each video had to have a cultural flavor, be about 1 minute long and offer original content. The content of the videos was very diverse:
- literary review
In addition, each video was accompanied by a short humorous presentation by Gilbert Forest. The project generated a lot of interest and a community was created around it. Nearly 500 subscribers discovered the talents of their peers and teachers (to their astonishment).
Andrew Varin, student in Natural Sciences at Cégep André-Laurendeau. [in French]
Thanks to this new broadcasting platform, students were able to rediscover the sense of community that existed at the CEGEP. In addition, La Minute Cultur.AL gave birth to various collaborations, for example Mathieu Lippé [in French], a slam poet, shot 8 capsules. Olivier Courtois of la Brigade Liseurs Publics [in French] proposed various challenges and columns with a literary flavour. Then, word-of-mouth spread and some public personalities, such as Mario Tessier and Debbie Lynch-White, sent encouraging videos to students.
This wonderful initiative showcased the enthusiasm and talent of Cégep André-Laurendeau's students and staff members. It brightened the confinement of this new virtual community. In fact, several colleges contacted Gilbert Forest to draw inspiration from his idea and possibly implement it in their institutions in the fall.
I would like to thank Gilbert Forest for his collaboration in writing this article.