Lansing, MI, October 25, 2015 --(PR.com
)-- Thanks to the drawing power of Michigan State University and the booming manufacturing, agricultural and retail industries, Mid-Michigan has become a multicultural mecca in recent years. Communities based around incoming Asian, Indian, Latino, and Afro-Caribbean groups have flourished, enriching Metro Lansing’s art, music and dining. Now you can add another culture to the mix: French. And a new local business is hoping to connect francophiles with the language, food and joie de vivre unique to French people.
“When I moved to Lansing, I missed my home very much, and would spend hours recreating my mother’s dishes and listening the music I loved growing up,” says Gaëlle Cassin-Ross, a French native who moved to Lansing six years ago. “It was a good surprise to find so many other people who lived here also love that French way of life.”
Cassin-Ross moved to East Lansing in 2009 shortly after earning a Ph.D. in molecular biology and plant physiology. She accepted a postdoc position in a lab at MSU, and met her husband a few years later. After she had her first child last year, she decided to take some time off to concentrate on his early development. That’s when something extraordinary began to happen.
“I only speak in French to my son so that he will be bilingual, and after other mothers heard me during play dates, they started to ask if I would teach their children too,” Cassin-Ross said. “At first I thought it was funny, but after it kept happening, I had the idea that this could actually become something.”
That something soon had a name: Aux Petits Soins (oh puh-TEE swah), a French idiom that means “to take tender care of.” Her goal: teach French language and culture to babies up to age 2 by immersing them in songs, games and interactive play. She held her first class in April 2015 with a handful of students in a rented space at a family center on the city’s south side. Six months later she has more than two dozen students who range all the way up to age 9, and she recently moved into a three-room space that will allow her to expand her services.
“I had been searching for anything to do with French culture and language since (my son) was born and am so fortunate to have stumbled upon this program,” says Sara Petti. “We both love attending class each week, singing the songs, and playing. Gaëlle truly has what is best and works for the children in mind.”
“I've always wanted to share French culture and language with my daughter, and I'm thrilled to have the chance to do it (at Aux Petits Soins),” says Kelly Toland. “My daughter started at 4 months old, (and), you can see by her smile how much she enjoys Gaëlle, hearing French songs and engaging in the other babies.”
“My 3-month old daughter and I drive one and a half hours once or twice per month so that we can enjoy the benefits of the class,” says Breaha Wallin, a mother who lives in Midland. “We would be going once or twice per week if we lived in Lansing. I cannot recommend it enough. Gaëlle is an absolute joy and has a talent for engaging even the youngest students.”
As the classes grew, Cassin-Ross began to get requests for additional services aimed at adults — language groups, cooking classes, a book club. This demand was part of the reason she decided to commit to a permanent location. The only problem was that the business was growing too fast, and so earlier this month, Cassin-Ross launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to create a multi-purpose French cultural center.
“I envision a library with French books, magazines and newspapers that people could read while they sip a latte and listen to Edith Piaf,” Cassin-Ross said. “A place where people can learn or re-learn French, and practice speaking it in a safe environment. My goal is to create a little Paris in Lansing I know the demand is there, but it’s a very niche group. It’s just a matter of creating this space for them, and then connecting with them to let them know it’s here.”
For more information, call Gaëlle at (517) 643-8059 or like the Aux Petits Soins Facebook page: facebook.com/auxpetitssoinsllc.