Public Achievement immigration stories

Emerson Badio, Contributor

During the 2017-2018 school year, students from Augsburg University and the University of Minnesota volunteered for Public Achievement at Maxfield Elementary School. Public Achievement is a civic youth organization developed by Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship that involves children of color working in teams on a public service project with an adult coach who guides the children through their project to give children opportunities to make a difference in their schools and communities.

Allison Oosterhuis, and Munira Osman (University of Minnesota students)  and I collaborated with seven Maxfield Elementary School students who are all children of immigrants from different backgrounds to learn more about immigration in the U.S. and the mistreatment of immigrants by speaking with immigration lawyers and immigrants from around the world.

After learning more about immigration, the children of Maxfield Elementary School wanted to figure out a way to share their own immigration stories. With the recent unfortunate potential deportation of Augsburg’s Professor Mzenga Wanyama, they thought it would be best to share their stories in the Augsburg “Echo” newspaper to show Augsburg University students how the mistreatment and hardships of immigrants is something that begins at even a very young age.

Mark writes:

“My mom and dad are both immigrants. They came from Somalia to the U.S. for a better and safer lifestyle. I was born in the U.S. I understand English and can speak it perfectly. When it was my first day of school, teachers told me I will need to be put in ELL (English Language Learners). My big brother was also told to go to ELL with me but we both knew English very well. I was young so I didn’t know what ELL was for. A lot of students at my school were mean to me because of my Somali culture and because I was in ELL. They would call me dumb or stupid because they thought I couldn’t speak good English even though I was born in America and could speak English perfectly. I probably even knew English better than most of the other kids. After two years of being in ELL, they took me out in second grade because I moved to a new house. But still my classmates doubted me of doing any good in school, but I proved them wrong by doing very good in math and reading and excelling at the top of my class. People aren’t so mean anymore.”

Rebecca says:

“I am from Thailand. I was born in a refugee camp, and lived there until I was four. The United States government decided my family could come to America. My family was excited, but I was very scared. I didn’t know how to speak English. I was with my mom, dad three brothers and one sister. My older sister was already in America. The plane ride was long. I fell asleep in the plane. We arrived in Texas, in the night time. A state official picked us up. It was my first time in a car. My mom sat in the front seat, and I sat with my brothers and sisters. When we arrived to the house, I went into the bedroom. This was the first time I saw a bedroom, and there were toys. My family left because Thailand is not safe. They kidnap people, take over villages, and burn homes. It is not safe for people when there is war.  Today, I know how to speak English, but I am still learning. My family moved to Minnesota, except for one of my brothers, and two of my sisters. They live in Texas now. My older sister has a child. I want to visit Texas because I miss my sisters, brother and the nieces and nephews. I am happy to be in Minnesota, and thankful for my family.”

This article first appeared in the Friday, April 20 edition of The Echo.