Middle School Students reenacted the experience of going through the Ellis Island checkpoints as if they were 19th century immigrants. Student Keller Mack writes:
Not having a clue what to expect, we were whisked into a line by people yelling in all different languages. We were each handed a name, occupation and immigrant number, which was going to be our identity for what felt like hours. Each of us stood in line, waiting to be yelled at in foreign languages by the two angry people at the front. While I waited in line, the guards came by, asking for bribes to get whoever would pay past the checkpoint, and sometimes not even asking before taking the amount they wanted.
Once I had passed the first checkpoint (with only a little bit of bribery), I was shoved into yet another line where I would wait for my medical, mental and citizenship tests. Despite being detained about seven times, I finally managed to complete all of the tests and continue to the next checkpoint. Out of all of the things that would get me deported (such as getting into arguments with other immigrants, cutting in line and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down), what really did me in was that I was Russian, and they were “sick of Russians.” Luckily, I was able to steal a ferry ticket and illegally get to New York City.
This empathy assignment was excellent for helping me to better understand what it was like for the people who actually came through Ellis Island so that they could get to our country. This was definitely the kind of experience that you never forget.
Thank you to all of the parents who helped with this event. Even Ms. Erica’s mom came to role play!