At Newcomers High, a New York City school for recently arrived immigrants, students understand Thanksgiving, writes Melanie Kirkpatrick in the Wall Street Journal.
History teacher Tim Becker includes a unit on the holiday even though Thanksgiving isn’t part of the state-mandated curriculum for his 11th-grade class. It “reminds my students that they are not the first new Americans to have struggled to achieve their dreams,” he says, “and that others before them have overcome the challenges of living in a new country.”
Like the Pilgrims, most of the students at Newcomers say their families came here seeking better lives. The Pilgrims “were looking for something they didn’t have in England,” says a girl from Colombia. “When you come here it is the same. You have to face difficulties.”
Students say their parents came here to make a better life for themselves and their children. A Bangladeshi boy says his family came for the purpose of “pursuiting the happiness.”
In (ESL teacher Sophie) Zannis’s class, we fall into a discussion of the virtues the Pilgrims exemplify and the personal characteristics they needed in order to survive the terrible winter of 1620-21, when half their number died. The words fly across the classroom: “Courage.” “Hard-working.” “Brave.” “Frustrated.” “Strong.” “Don’t give up.”
The students also believe it’s important to eat turkey, though their parents may add pierogies or rice or tortillas. It’s tradition, they say.