A Nation of Immigrants Curriculum
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Become a Part of the History of New York
Document Your Immigrant Experience

The United States is a country created primarily through the immigration of people from all over the world.  This is an opportunity for you to tell your story, or the story of your family or a close friend.  It is also an opportunity for your story to become part of the living history of New York by having it included as part of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives as an official historical document.

Part of History
Three immigrants recite the oath of allegiance at a citizenship swearing-in ceremony at LaGuardia Community College, 2006.


There are many ways to tell a story.  To begin with, you need a story to tell.  If you immigrated yourself from another country, then you can tell your own story.  If you were born in the United States, you can tell the story of another family member who immigrated: a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle.  Or if none of these choices work, you can always tell the story of a close friend who immigrated.

Make History
An Asian family at the International Arrivals area, Kennedy Airport, 1996


Next, you need to create a written account of your story.  If its your personal story, you should:

  • Write about your life before you immigrated: where were you living, what were you  doing (student?  working?) who were you, how did you see the world. 
  • Then move on to why you or your parents immigrated, what did you or your parents expect the new life to be like, what were you hoping to achieve. 
  • Next, you should discuss your life here in the United States, the ways you have changed and the stages you have gone through, how the reality of being here compares to what you imagined it to be.
  • Discuss also the relationship between your two cultural identities, the way they fit together and the way they conflict. 
  • Finally, reflect on how you see your future, your hopes and dreams, the successes you are planning to achieve, how your experience immigrating has created a different path for your life compared to your parents and grandparents.  Your teacher will introduce you to personal narratives written by other people who have immigrated, sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Next you should include photographs that relate to the story you have written: photographs of you and your family, photographs from your home country, photographs of your life here in the United States.  Your teacher will help you scan your photographs to transfer them into a digital format.  If  your school doesn’t have a scanner, you can always use a digital camera to take photographs of family photos, artwork, your neighborhood, and so on.

You are also encouraged to use creative art forms to tell your story.  For example, a poem that you have written, a painting or drawing you have created, a song  you have composed, even video clips you have filmed.  You might also use poems, visual art, or music created by others to illustrate your story.  Your teacher will show you examples to illustrate how these artistic mediums can be powerful ways to tell your story.

Make History
Chinese dancers performing in New York City, c. 2000.


To sum up:  This is a unique opportunity for you to document your experience with immigration, and to become part of New York City history by having your story accepted into the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY as part of its permanent collection.

  • Select an immigrant story to tell, either your own, a family member, or a friend.
  • In a self-reflective essay, tell your immigrant story in a 500 word narrative.
  • Include photographs to illustrate your story.
  • Include a poem, painting, music, or video clip to illustrate your story.
  • Integrate these different pieces in a digital telling of your immigrant story.


Sample materials will be provided by your teacher to illustrate the immigrant stories that other people have told.

Become part of history
Three immigrants from Guadeloupe arrive at Ellis Island, c. 1900.