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Power Of The Pen

A group of Latino students at Steele Canyon High School in Rancho San Diego, California, had planned to skip classes to attend pro-immigrant rallies this spring. But English teacher Kim Dickinson found that, while the students had strong feelings about the topic, they didn't really know much about the immigration legislation being protested. She challenged them to do more than just add a few more bodies to the protesting crowd. She invited the students back to her classroom and encouraged them to research the issues behind the rallies. Their discussion grew to include dozens of other students and now, two months later, the result is a 50-page book of family histories, narratives and illustrations about immigration and immigrant families' experiences. Most of the essays were written by students who don't speak English as their primary language. Some had only been in the United States for a few years; some didn't use their real names with their writing because of their immigration status. One student's illustration for the volume showed a man separated from a gravesite in Mexico by a border fence. It was meant to highlight the fact that illegal immigrants can't return home to attend relatives' funerals. The original group of students who had been planning to walk out for the rallies said they were glad to have an alternative outlet for their opinions. "I seriously wanted to be with them (the students who walked out)," said Maricruz Pulido. "But I thought if I miss out on school, I'm not doing what I came here for, to get a better education."

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