New Immigrants Share Their Stories: The Students of Newcomers High School | Not in Our Town

New Immigrants Share Their Stories: The Students of Newcomers High School

Multimedia in the Classroom: Student Video Diaries and Publication from the Building Bridges Project

"Immigrants have been under attack in recent years, mainly due to lack of awareness and stereotypes about who immigrants are and why they come here. It is our hope that these stories will help to end these negative attacks and build a bridge between my students and those who haven‘t had the pleasure of knowing them.

It is also our hope that through their stories, we will help to educate the world about the rich and wonderful people my students and their ancestors are, the extraordinary experiences they have had, the goals and dreams they have for their lives here, and the enormous value they add to this country." 

Julie Mann, Newcomers High School Human Rights teacher

The students of Newcomers High School in Long Island City, which specializes in teaching recent immigrants, and those of St. Luke's, a private middle school in Manhattan, have come together to dialogue about difference and combat bias.

The Building Bridges project was created through a collaboration between Newcomers teacher Julie Mann (left), and St. Luke's teacher Kim Allen (right), who met in 1999 through a Facing History and Ourselves  workshop.  Ms. Mann's class of English-learners exchanged letters with their St. Luke's "buddies",  and in the first of several meet-ups this year, received help editing their personal immigration stories. In return, St. Luke's students are preparing research papers on immigration informed by the interviews they conducted with their Newcomers buddies. Several Newcomers students also created video diaries.

"St. Luke's School students, who are in the 8th grade and attend an Episcopal School in Greenwich Village, benefit from all the advantages of fast-paced Manhattan and the privileges of an excellent private school education. At the same time, our school community is committed to learning about and contributing to our diverse city. How fortunate we are that the remarkable and, quite frankly, often brilliant young immigrants of the Queens-based Newcomers High School enrich our lives through letters, projects, and visits to each other's schools."

—Kim Allen, St. Luke's School teacher

On this page, you'll find the Not In Our School video that chronicles this project, student-created video diaries and the student publication that showcases the work of the Newcomers-St. Luke's project.


New Immigrants Share Their Stories

Shot in December 2010 in Queens, N.Y.





Things Always Happen for a Reason by Jeanette (Ecuador)

"Jeanette's story is truly inspiring. She has had a more difficult life than the average person, but she still made it through with confidence. She never fails to have a smile on her face. This moving and motivational account is one to remember." —Jeanette's St. Luke's buddy, Morgan



In this video diary, Jeanette takes us on the journey from the economic hardships her family faced in Ecuador and the loss of her father to cancer to adapting to life in the U.S. Jeanette now dreams of obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology and living in Manhattan.


Dream Land by Weifeng (China)

"The history of my family is like a ship which meets a storm. In my generation, the sun is coming out. My whole family was born in China. My parents were born in a dark age when China was poor and had no food."


Student Weifeng details his family's history and immigration from China, how his life is changing in the U.S., and his hopes for the future. "My life is changing in a dramatic way," he says. Now 18, he volunteers with the Model UN and dreams of opening a small business in California.


An Optimistic Yet Misinterpreted Endeavor by Sangjukta (Bangladesh)

"Most of the time, immigrants' native countries are in dangerous situations, and this lack of security leads us to move to other countries to have a better life. The motivation behind coming to this country is always a hope of beginning a new life."



Student Sangjukta discusses the vital role that immigrants play in the U.S., the gender discrimination in her home country of Bangladesh, and how she's adapted to English and her new community. Sangjukta enjoys community service and dreams of being a NASA scientist. As she says, "I believe the world is in our hands."

Excelling Above Life's Expectations: An Immigration Story by Kamy (Congo)

"For Kamy life was no walk in the park. She had to deal with death, parting with most of her family, and leaving her country. Kamy has been so brave throughout the process of writing her story. I have known Kamy since September, when I immediately liked her and wanted to be her friend." — Kamy's St. Luke's buddy, Nicole


In this video diary, Newcomers student Kamy details her migration from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to adapting to life in the U.S. "I know that me being in this country is not an accident," says Kamy.

From There to There to Here: An Immigration Story by Tashi (Tibet/Nepal)

"I found the American cultures totally different from my Tibetan culture but I like the American culture as well. People over here don't hesitate to say what is on their mind, and they are not scared of asking someone for help. The police here don't abuse people if they protest, but in Nepal when we protest against anything, we would be beaten by the police or put into the prison. I like this country because we are free and have a lot of opportunities if we study well."


In this student video diary, Newcomers High School student Tashi details her family's journey from her native Tibet to Nepal and finally, to the U.S., for protection and safety. Tashi wants to become a doctor.

Control: An Immigration Story by Check (Ivory Coast)

"Coming here from the Ivory Coast was just like a second chance that life had given to me ... I had the will to change and the opportunity to do it. I switched my mindset to someone without any goals in his life to a fighter who was determined to win."


In this student diary, student Check details his history in the Ivory Coast, where he joined a gang as a preteen. Check now dreams of being a businessman or lawyer and serving in the U.S. Marines.



The Newcomers High students' immigration stories—edited by the St. Luke's students—have been compiled in a book. In these pages, you'll find 37 unique stories penned by students from Albania, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Colombia, Poland, Ivory Coast, Russia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Tibet, China, Brazil, Peru, Haiti, and the Philippines. Like generations of immigrants before them, readers will discover, as teacher Kim Allen points out, heart-wrenching accounts and patterns of resilience. But there is also a great deal of hope among these new Americans.  

At the beginning of each essay, you'll find a personal note from the Newcomers student's buddy, giving us a glimpse into what this partnership between Newcomers and St. Luke's must have provided: A personal and intimate exchange about what it means to be in America and a new perspective on the world. St. Luke's student Luke says about his buddy Jonathan:

In the few months that I have known Jonathan, I can say that he is a kind-hearted and life-loving person. Throughout my correspondence with him, he has displayed himself as a smart and friendly 18-year-old who is in touch with his Ecuadorian roots. As you are about to read in his story he has had quite a journey from Ecuador, and although he has only lived in the United States for 3 years, he definitely has the makings of a patriot.

Max on his buddy Check:

I have known Check ... for the last two years of my life. We have been communicating through letters and I know him well enough to say that Check is one of the greatest guys I have ever met. Check is the type of person who embraces both his Ivorian culture and his newfound American culture with gusto. Check took a leap of faith by coming to America to live with his mother whom he had not seen since he was a young child. However, because he is such a positive, enthusiastic person, he was able to adapt to his new life quickly. Hardworking, athletic (he loves to play basketball), and ambitious, Check embodies all that is best about the immigrant experience in America. I feel lucky to call him a friend.

Download the book with the link below.


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PDF icon Newcomers_StudentPublication.pdf13.35 MB