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Local History student spends summer and fall working at the Juno Beach Centre.

Elias Parent inspires others to learn history by doing.

(November 10, 2022) - Like so many future students considering post-secondary, Elias Parent initially felt a little uncertain as to his path. “I entered university not knowing exactly what I wanted to do for the endgame of my life. However, I knew that I had an interest in history and felt as though at university, that’s what you should do: take courses about something you like; something you’re interested in.”

That’s precisely what Parent did after graduating from Sudbury’s Collège Notre Dame (2021). He registered in Laurentian’s History program, and is set to begin his second year in January.

“I’m a ‘history buff,’ especially when it comes to World War Two and the Cold War,” Parent explained. “History is so important. It’s a subject that we cannot forget because looking back at history can help us prevent future mistakes. We learn from the past.”

Something inspirational about Parent is his drive to learn by doing. For Parent, while professors at Laurentian have provided “excellent opportunities for learning” and “have really motivated me to want to continue in History,” this summer and fall, Parent stepped away from the classroom to work a seven-month contract as a bilingual interpreter at the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France. This opportunity found him enriching the educational experience of visitors to the Centre from all across the world.

Established in 2003, the Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War (WWII) museum that pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 381 on D-Day (June 6, 1944). The Centre was opened by veterans and volunteers with the vision to create a memorial to honour all Canadians who served during WWII. It is the Centre’s mandate to “preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.”

At the age of eighteen, Parent is the youngest hire the Juno Beach Centre has ever made. According to Parent, working to preserve history has been an honour, and living and working independently in France has offered rewarding opportunities for learning and personal growth. “I’m a Franco-Ontarian, and one of the highlights about this experience is that my French has improved so much since getting here.” Thanks to multicultural and multilingual interactions with visitors and other workers at the Centre, Parent has even picked up a little Italian and a few words in German along the way.

“I love sharing history with people and enlightening them about important historical events,” Parent described. “Some of the incredible interactions I’ve had [working at the Centre] include talks with veterans from the Korean War, WWII, and others. Being able to hear about these people’s experiences has been powerful.”

Elias’ interest in history runs in the family. His mother, Rosanne, also studied History at Laurentian, earning her B.A. in 2019. After obtaining her Master’s in Viking Studies (University of Highlands and Islands, 2020), she enrolled in Laurentian’s PhD Human Studies and Interdisciplinarity.

“Education has always been encouraged in our family,” said Parent, who also explained that outside of the classroom and home, he’s learned a great deal about history from his experience in the Canadian Cadets program. “I joined Cadets when I was twelve, and I’ll age out of the program at nineteen, so I’ve been a Cadet for nearly seven years…. Participating in Cadets has taught me values and disciplines, and has helped me make new friends.”

Though he’s not sure yet, Parent spoke about future interest in the Canadian Army Reserves.

Having recently returned to Canada, Parent is eager to participate in annual Remembrance Day services that are observed every year on November 11th. Originally called “Armistice Day'' to commemorate armistice agreement that ended the First War on November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth.

All are encouraged to remember the more than 2,300,000 Canadians who have served throughout our nation’s history and the more than 118,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice (source: Government of Canada).