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Achieving a New Bench-mark: Students donate special project to Ellis Island

Bench Project 2012
Prattsburgh Central School student Austin Cartwright works on a replica bench bound for Ellis Island.

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News Release Date: May 16, 2012
Contact: Mindi Rambo, 212-363-3206 x106

New York, NY - Students from a small high school located in Upstate New York are making a lasting impression at Ellis Island, where more than 12 million immigrants were processed before being officially allowed into America between 1890 and 1924. Eleven students from Prattsburgh Central School (PCS) in Prattsburgh, N.Y., have made a replica of one of the benches that during the island's use as an immigration station stretched by the dozens across the Great Hall in unrelenting parallel lines.

On May 19 at 11 a.m., the students will present the replica bench to the staff at Ellis Island in a special ceremony that will include a musical montage of patriotic songs performed by members of the school's chorus and band. Utilizing the park's Distance Learning system, the entire ceremony will be broadcast back to the school, so that classmates, parents and interested community members can witness the project's crowning moment.

"This kind of project is wonderful because it exposes students who are not in a traditional classroom to an important piece America's history. It allows them to become a part of that history," said Daniel Brown, Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Chief of Interpretation, Education and Visitor Services. "The National Park Service (NPS) needs people who are builders, woodworkers and photographers. This partnership helps students discover that the NPS offers opportunities in all kinds of fields, and hopefully they will consider a career with us."

The bench was created as the result of a partnership between the park, the New York's Greater Southern Tier Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and PSC. BOCES goal is to partner with New York State School Districts to assist in the changing educational needs of students by providing a broad range of services, including the ability to take carpentry and design classes at participating schools.

The program was piloted in May of 2011, when students from another high school made two replica benches that were given to the park. The benches created by the students were donated to Ellis Island in a special ceremony that served as the template for this year's donation by PCS.

Did You Know?

Dorm Room

Although most immigrants processed at Ellis Island stayed between three and five hours, about 20% stayed overnight in dormitory rooms until their cases could be cleared. Many immigrants found these accommodations a big improvement over the severe conditions of traveling to America in "steerage".