Migrants to US learn English by describing own lives

Migrants to US learn English by describing own lives

The project called "My Family, Our Stories" has been implemented in the state's schools for more than 10 years now. It is coordinated by The Light Factory, an independent visual arts museum.

Charles Thomas, education director at the museum, says: "Whatever opinion people may have about the immigration issue, those of us here are out to break down the stereotypes and offer them (the students) a platform for exchanging ideas and experiences with the community in general."

Students work on the project for eight weeks, "take classes and at the end exhibit their work in our gallery. It's a rare chance for many of them and an enriching experience that allows us to promote the power of the image", Thomas said.

For Justine Busto, with 15 years' experience in teaching such students, the project offers immigrant students "a reason to reflect on their lives and realize they have an important story to tell and to share".

"It's their moment to shine. It gives them self-confidence, something special they can do, the chance to say something that maybe they wouldn't dare mention in everyday circumstances at school with other students," he said.

For 17-year-old Cuban immigrant Mariana Rodriguez - who has lived in the US for only three years - taking part in the programme helped improve her level of English, stop being afraid of talking to others, and above all to be "better understood".
"When I got to this country I didn't speak a single word of English. I didn't have any American friends, I never really understood the classes or the teachers, I felt a little isolated," she said.

With her writings about her experiences and photographs of her family, the teenager spoke of the hardships that immigrants have to face during their period of trying to fit into  US society.

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