I recently visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with my daughter. We felt the emotional tug of standing inside the main building on Ellis Island listening to the stories of immigrants who risked everything to come to America. This risk was worth it because of liberty, opportunity, and the hope of a better life.
For many of those immigrants, a new story began as they left Ellis Island for a new home in a strange place. Part of the Ellis Island Museum included clothing, books, jewelry, pottery, and other items that the families of immigrants had donated. A true mosaic of cultures from around the world coming together.
One common experience for many of the immigrants was the public school. Through the public school experience, students learned about common values shared in a democracy while also learning to value and appreciate the differences among classmates.
This experience still happens for students in our public schools today, as was echoed by many of our graduating seniors. In many of our schools, you can hear dozens of languages being spoken in the hallways. Our students and teachers know this diversity is a strength.
I’ve talked to many students who have shared how much they valued being in a diverse school and learning how to interact with people from so many different cultures. As one senior shared, whatever country he studied, he could find someone in his school whose family came from there.
From Ellis Island, we took the ferry to Liberty Island. As I stood beneath the amazing Statue of Liberty, reflecting on what she symbolizes to people around the world, I was reminded how truly fortunate I am to be living in the United States. I was deeply touched by the explanation that her torch represented the enlightenment that democracy brought to the world. And I was filled with pride as I considered the critical role that our public schools have played in nurturing that enlightenment for generations of students!
The Statue of Liberty has always been a symbol for our nation. But I believe it’s also a powerful symbol for teachers. She beckons all who seek enlightenment and hope! That’s what public schools are all about.
Is there a story of immigration and hope in your family? Share it with me! Tell me what you think on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.