Stories for the Classroom
Many teachers haved asked us to suggest Immigrant Stories that help students learn about immigration in the past and present. Here are some digital stories about commonly-requested themes. Click on the photos below to watch the videos and read their transcripts.
Adjusting to Life in the United States | Art, Music, and Dance | DREAMers | Entrepreneurship | Family History | Identity | Language | Migrating for Love | Objects that Tell a Story | Refugee Camps and Refugee Resettlement | Second-Generation Experiences | Southeast Asian Refugee Experiences after 1975 | Spoken Word Digital Stories | Transnational Adoption | Transnational Family Life
Adjusting to Life in the United States
Mohamed talks about adjusting to American maps and public transportation after he moved to Minnesota from Tunis, Tunisia in 2012 and began studying at the University of Minnesota.
Pa, a Hmong refugee born in Thailand, and her family were resettled in the United States in 2004. She reflects on starting a new life and raising her young son in a different country.
Art, Music, and Dance
Banlang, who was born in Laos in 1946, came to the United States as a refugee. Her digital story features a storybook about her experiences that she created with Minneapolis public school students.
Justin recalls his Italian great-grandmother and begins tracing pieces of her rich life, including a song she recorded in 1940 for her husband while he was fighting in World War II.
Magnolia Yang Sao Yia
"What is Hmong Dance?" is Magnolia Yang Sao Yia's digital story of poetry, dance, and identity. Born in France in 1988, she moved to the United States at age 8 and is an artist, dancer, and choreographer.
Thiago reflects on his experiences as a DREAMer from Brazil and the personal significance of obtaining legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012.
Kahin talks about his Minneapolis restaurant, Afro Deli, and creating community in Minnesota by sharing East African food. Kahin, who is Somali, was born in Djibouti and immigrated to the United States in 1996. In 2016, Kahin was U.S. Senator Al Franken’s guest at President Obama’s final State of the Union address.
Ederick talks about immigrating to the United States from Caracas, Venezuela and becoming an entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Raíces Media, which runs two bilingual magazines for the Minnesota Hispanic community and a multicultural diversity and recruitment firm.
John uses an album of family photos to describe his family’s many migrations between Italy and the United States between 1909 and 1927, including multiple returns to Italy, the separation of family members, and several deaths.
Shue-Qa's father, along with many other Hmong men, fought with the Americans during the “Secret War” in Laos, and his family was forced to flee the country in the 1970's. Shue-Qa explains how the family crossed the Mekong River, were reunited in Thailand, and resettled in the United States.
Mustafa and his family left Somalia after the outbreak of civil war in 1991, when he was only a year old. In his video, Mustafa reflects on his life and identity as a “Somali in exile” who has never felt completely comfortable calling himself American.
Lina came to the United States with her family at age 14 from Cali, Colombia. She reflects on her struggles to fit into American society and how she realized that she could live her own life and not fit someone else's picture.
Nasser, who was born in the Oromia region of Ethiopia and grew up in Kenya, came to the United States in 2005. In his digital story, he talks about feeling like his previous identity was stripped away in the United States and replaced with the labels black, immigrant, Muslim, and refugee.
Natasha Reika Gomez
In this trilingual digital story, Natasha, born in 1993, talks about her family's many migrations and how the Spanish and Japanese languages are bridges to different parts of her family and cultures.
Jennie explains how two years of lobbying and organizing by the local Korean community spurred her Bay Area high school to offer Korean language classes beginning in 2011.
Migrating for Love
Chiyoko Toguchi Swartz
Chiyoko, who was born in Okinawa in 1940, married Charles Swartz, an American soldier stationed in Okinawa. Their family moved to the United States in 1966. Her grandson tells her story through a focus on the Japanese parenting book that was a source of information and comfort as she raised her children in Minnesota and California.
Eliza and Ferdinand Algas
Eliza Calaguan Algas was born in the Philippines 1965 and grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. When she was 24, her parents met a young man, Ferdinand Algas, on a visit back to the Philippines. Eliza and Ferdinand became pen pals for several years before marrying and raising a family in Wisconsin.
Objects that Tell a Story
Teng Lee, a Hmong refugee to the United States, talks about each of the immigration documents he received over the years, culminating in his U.S. Certificate of Naturalization, which ended his status as a stateless person. His family emigrated from Thailand to Minnesota in 1988.
Renita was born in Tamil Nadu, India in 1996. She explains how her mother's wedding saree connected her mother's traditions in India to her new life in the United States and the saree's significance to Renita today.
Refugee Camps and Refugee Resettlement
Watch Caceelia, a Karen refugee, tell her story of life in Thai refugee camps during the 1990s and building a new life after arriving in the United States in 2001.
Saengmany tells the story of how his family became refugees after the civil war in Laos and the lengthy process of refugee resettlement they experienced in order to come to the United States in 1986. He reflects on the absence of stories like his in the history he learned in school. Saengmany invites others to share their stories too, so this video is a good introduction for students who will create their own digital stories.
Adam talks about the importance of tortillas at his breakfast table and what they mean to him "as a second-generation Mexican immigrant, growing up closer to Lake Superior than the Rio Grande."
Nelsie, the daughter of Hmong refugees, talks about how experiences of racism in the United States and discrimination she observed as a study abroad student in Thailand led her to become active in political and social justice movements in Minnesota.
Southeast Asian Refugee Experiences after 1975
Kunrath was born in Cambodia in 1972. Most of her family was killed when the Khmer Rouge came to power, and Kunrath, her parents, and sister escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand.
Her family resettled in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1983, and Kunrath and her husband opened Cheng Heng, the city's first Cambodian restaurant, in 1997. Kunrath has sponsored the construction of two schools in Cambodia.
Hung, a South Vietnamese naval officer, was forced to flee the country in 1975. He met his future wife in a refugee camp, and they later married after they were separately resettled in the United States.
Yeng and her family, like many Hmong people, fled from Laos to Thailands in the 1970’s. She tells a heartbreaking story about how one of her children died while the family tried to cross the Mekong River into Thailand. In Hmong with English subtitles.
Spoken Word Digital Stories
Saymoukda, a Lao American poet and playwright, intersperses part of her award-winning poem “When everything was everything” with reflections on her childhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. She describes the poem as "a very honest look into what it was like for not only myself but for people like me who... probably won’t consider themselves even first-generation American, people who grew up in poor resource neighborhoods and had to work really hard to get to where they are.”
Jonathan performs “My Name is Hmong: Call Me Freedom,” a bilingual poem about his culture, heritage, and identity as a young Hmong man born and raised in the United States.
Makenna recounts her 1995 adoption from South Korea and shows a home video of her arrival in the United States.
Transnational Family Life
May Esperanza Losloso
May Esperanza Losloso was born in the Philippines in 1982 and immigrated to the United States in 1992. Her family was separated for nine years before she and her mother could obtain permission to live with her father in the United States.
William, the youngest of five children, was born in Kenya in 1990. His mother moved to the United States when he was six months old, leaving him in the care of his family. His siblings later moved to the United States too, and William joined them in 2012.
Liang tells her family’s story through a stereo that her parents bought while living in a Thai refugee camp. After their family was resettled in the United States in 1987, they used their stereo to record and listen to messages on cassette tape that they exchanged with family members still living in Laos.