Just before winter break I received a call from the Toledo Community Foundation telling me that an anonymous donor would like to give a $1000 gift to a student who wrote the best essay to the prompt: Immigrants Role in American Prosperity. I made an announcement at an US assembly and have since received fourteen essays. Some cited famous immigrants or their descendants for their contributions-- Steve Jobs, Alexander Hamilton, Albert Einstein, and Joseph Pulitzer were just a few who were mentioned. Many essays provided data to back up their claims about the significant contributions of immigrants to America. Did you know, for example, that 40% of all Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants? That although immigrants account for only 13% of the US population, they account for a quarter of new businesses?
Others chose to write from a more personal perspective, weaving in stories about their own family’s journey to America. One student wrote very movingly about how hard her mother worked, often holding down three jobs while still taking care of her family. In a particularly poignant passage the student wrote: The music of the mariachi band started, and a big group of people started to dance. I could admire my cousins, aunts, and family friends in their fancy costumes, all enjoying themselves completely. As they passed by, I could see all of the smiles on their faces. I spotted my mother in her red and gold costume. She was feeling the music. She was dancing freely. She was smiling, and it was like her face was glowing. I felt like there was an aura of bliss surrounding her, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Through the Carnaval spirit my mother was reminded that she had ancestors from a proud, dignified culture. She was proud of her background and the culture that she was a part of. The people who were watching were cheering – both Mexicans and Americans. That was what my mother and brother smiled at the most that day. Americans were watching and appreciating our culture. They were learning about the traditions of Mexico, and the whole park seemed to have a different, exciting vibe. My mother, through her dignity and pride for her culture, taught people about her culture. America, learn from my mother who contributes to this country with cultural diversity.
The range of stories told by the students underscores our school’s rich diversity. A diversity that is growing and one whose riches we have only begun to fully realize. Being part of a diverse community brings with it the responsibility to learn about others who are different from us. This is always interesting, often fun, and sometimes challenging. There are many things going on, in and out of the classroom, that recognize and celebrate our diversity. Here are a few highlights:
On Wednesday night the Lower Intermediate Showcase told the story in music and dance of people who came to America via Ellis Island. Parents brought in food from their various cultures to share and a veritable feast followed the program.
Today, Middle School students are at the Holocaust Museum in Birmingham, MI., learning about the history of the holocaust and the mass migration of people displaced from their homelands.
Students in Ms. Green’s 8th grade English classes have once again participated in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Contest offered by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. This year’s essay prompt asked students to “Think about times in your life when you have witnessed hatred and intolerance. What things have you done to drive out hate?”
ELC Students are reading books on Martin Luther King, Jr. and discussing tolerance, acceptance, diversity, and the golden rule.
I know that our multicultural community is one of the reasons many of you have chosen Maumee Valley for your children. We share a desire for all our children to be respectful, accepting, and culturally literate. In this time of often intense national dialog about immigration, and the uncertainty caused by the vast movement of peoples currently being displaced around the world, we would be well-served to recall the words Dr. King wrote in his book Strength to Love: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”