I am an Immigrant. Are you?

Earlier this month, VWC participated in a national event called I am An Immigrant, emphasizing the fact that the United States of America is a country built from the hard work of immigrants.

As part of this event, students donned t-shirts which read, “I Am An Immigrant” and  proudly displayed both their heritage and the generation they represented. The Latino Student Alliance and the African Student Association at VWC set up a table in the Jane P. Batten Student Center displaying photos of students representing what generation and country they were from in the event t-shirts. They also passed out information about immigrants as well. This was a follow up to the photo shoot that the two groups had hosted in preparation for I Am An Immigrant Day.

I Am An Immigrant Day is a day that was created in order to help people celebrate and recognize where they came from. The I Am An Immigrant campaign was started in the past year by Welcome.us, a non-profit that is dedicated to celebrating diversity in the United States. On their website, the organization showcases videos of celebrities talking about their heritage and where they came from. Welcome.us, started this in hopes of getting others to explore their own heritage and stand together with others to spread diversity.

On October 27th, Virginia Wesleyan College students crowded into the multipurpose room in the Jane P. Batten Student Center to take a picture proclaiming their heritage. Each student put on a shirt that said “I Am An Immigrant” on the front and took a picture while holding a whiteboard that said what generation they were and where they were from. The two groups were surprised by the big turn out. It seemed as everyone was happy to show where they came from and learn about other people’s heritage.

Nyoh Njoka, who is the president of the African Student Association, was glad to be apart of this event. Njoka is a 1st generation immigrant from Cameroon, Africa. She stated that events like these help students learn about other people’s cultures and gives you the chance to really appreciate yours.

“Celebrating being an immigrant gives people the chance to learn and appreciate the cultures that other people offer,” Njoka said.

Sheril Steinberg was the person who got the idea to do this event. Steinberg, who is apart of the Latino Student Alliance (LSA), found out about I Am An Immigrant Day from a friend.

“A friend that I had in high school contacted me a while back asking me if LSA would be open to help spread immigration awareness on campus with this event and I immediately said yes,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg was born in Virginia. Her mother is an immigrant from Ecuador and her father is a Jewish-American. She has different heritage on both sides and this event was one way for her to show it.

The second part to this event took place on Nov. 1, which was I Am An Immigrant day. Sheril and her fellow LSA members set up a table in the Jane P. Batten Student Center displaying all of the pictures that were taken the week before of everyone in their I Am An Immigrant t-shirts. While the table was set up, the group had information out for students to look at that gave information about immigrants and I Am An Immigrant Day.

Ederlis Nuñez, who was the photographer for the event and also a member of LSA, was glad to be apart of the whole thing. Nuñez, a 1st generation Puerto Rican, said the event showed her how many immigrants are actually in the school. To her the event also helped clear some misconceptions that she felt some people often have about immigrants.

“Just because we are called immigrants, that doesn’t mean that we are illegal or bad. We just want to be happy and have a good life just like everyone else,” Nuñez said.

The event was a way to clear the air and help students understand immigrants better.

Cynthia Griffin

(Photo: Sheril Steinburg | Courtesy)