To the Editor:
Many students in Bayonne High School have recently taken part in an event that will change our perspectives on immigration and individuals in our community forever. I, along with 60 other students, was given the chance to watch an exceptional documentary, I Learn America, as part of the Facing History and Ourselves and Contemporary Human Rights courses in the high school. The documentary follows the stories of five teenage immigrants from completely different backgrounds as they gradually “learn America.” Of course, we recognized that the students struggled with the language and traditions, but we discovered something extremely significant through the film. On September 24, we had the opportunity of meeting the brilliant director, Jean-Michel Dissard, and two of the outstanding students his documentary introduced to us. As expected, we started the event by asking the students, Sing and Sandra, about their stories. We were surprised, however, when Dissard turned the question around to us and asked us about our stories. The immediate response to the question was utter silence. Finally, one brave student stood up and told her story about her parents, who are immigrants, and how much they sacrificed for her to have a better future. This idea was not foreign to the students in the room, most of whom are immigrants or have parents or ancestors who are immigrants. More and more students shared their beautiful, meaningful, and inspiring stories of love, sacrifice, and perseverance. Listening to story after story, two things were clear to us: we all have a story, and it must be heard and embraced. Dissard concluded the touching event by explaining that we are all stories. We are all books in a huge “human library.” It would be greedy to keep these important stories to ourselves. That is why, with the help of Mr. Gene Woods, Mr. Daniel Ward, Dr. Patricia L. McGeehan, Mr. Philip Baccarella, and Mr. John Rodrigues, the students of Bayonne High School are opening the “human library” to the public in a wonderful event on January 7th. Everyone is welcome to join us in the “I Learn America” experience. It will also be a perfect opportunity to experience the different stories in the diverse Bayonne community. It will truly be an experience no one shall soon forget.