Immigrant Experiences: From Ellis Island to Staten Island

Immigrant Reflections from Ellis Island to Staten Island

What could today’s immigrants possibly have in common with immigrants who came through Ellis Island years ago?

In the spring of 2008, juniors at the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies conducted oral history interviews with current immigrants living in their own communities to answer that question. The immigrants interviewed in 2008 for this project came from all over the globe—Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Europe—yet their dreams are very similar to those who were processed at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954.

In Their Own Words:

Listen in as these immigrants share their very personal experiences about coming to America. Each person’s journey is as unique as the countries they were born in.

  • Christopher Chieh speaks about coming to the U.S. as a refugee after escaping civil war in his native Liberia. (5:33 min.)
  • Debbie Goon recalls how her parents struggled to bring their ten children from Hong Kong to this country. (6:44 min.)
  • Jisu Kim contrasts how traditonal Korean culture and U.S. culture each measure a person's worth. (4:52 min.)
  • Margaret Kubasczyk recalls her Polish family's narrow escape from Nazi German soldiers in World War II. (5:19 min.)
  • Evelyn Kwakye compares the oppotunities in the U.S. with the community values and "soul" of her native Ghana. (4:04 min.)
  • Marzana Sulima remembers hundreds of people standing in line to get visas to move to the U.S. in the 1980s. (4:27 min.)
  • Yan Tian considers how higher education in the U.S. promotes individuality, as compared to college in his native China. (5:02 min.)

The National Parks of New York Harbor Education Center created the year-long project and brought together several partners: the high school, Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Save Ellis Island and the College of Staten Island. The project was funded by a Save Our History grant from the History Channel, which funds projects where students preserve local history.

The project was funded by a grant from the History Channel as part of their Save Our History program, which preserves endangered local history through school projects.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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