For 24 years, seventh graders at Heritage have participated in a tradition known as Immigration Day. On Immigration Day students travel back to the early 1900s, a period defined by the movement of millions of migrants to the U.S.
On the day of the event, students began their journey by waiting for a ship (bus) to carry them from Europe (the Student Center) to Ellis Island (the school gym), where the majority of immigrants in that era were processed.
Once there, students were met with an officer who spoke a different language from them and they had to learn how to communicate. Afterwards, they faced a medical examination conducted by actual doctors. If they were deemed healthy, the immigrants moved on. However, some could not move on as they were “diagnosed” with uncared for teeth (braces), nail fungus (nail polish) and poor eyesight (glasses.) The immigrants that failed their inspection were sent to quarantine and evaluated again. If they passed the second round of tests, they could enter into the country. Those who did not pass were deported back to the bleachers to restart the process.
The original students who made it through testing were sent to various classrooms across campus to work jobs. These jobs often included tasks such as cleaning the classroom or filing paperwork.
Immigration Day is a key part of the 7th grade history curriculum and it gives students an interactive, fun opportunity to learn. Aside from school, it also teaches them to honor their heritage.
“Approximately 40% of all Americans have an ancestor who went through Ellis Island. Additionally, Heritage has a large number of first and second-generation Americans. Either they are immigrants or their parents are,” said social studies teacher and Immigration Day coordinator Mrs. Leslie Porges said.
“We want to help students understand how difficult it is to come to a new country and we hoped that this would make them more tolerant.”
All photos taken by Emma Delgado.