Crossing Borders: Friends School Explores The Immigration Experience

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Friends School engaged students Wednesday in “Crossing Borders,” a day-long symposium on the subject of immigration. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. students and faculty participated in workshops, listened to immigration stories, watched Chinese and West African dance and more, all to encourage community-building and better understanding of other cultures and the immigration experience.

Chinese dancers at Friends

Planning for the day started over a year ago by the foreign language committee. “[Committee members] met monthly and the vision continued to grow,” said Director of Academics Greta Rutstein.  “We could not have imagined how timely this issue would be when we first started.”

immigration day at friends
Students participated in the international dances, too.

That vision was to share testimonies of immigration and reflect on the development of resilience within immigrant communities. “We hope to develop cultural appreciation, awareness, empathy and advocacy within our student body, related to cultural diversity, immigration, and social justice,” said Rutstein.

Members of the school community, as well as presenters from the Esperanza Center in Fells Point and the International Rescue Committee in Highlandtown, shared personal stories of immigration struggles from crossing the border to feeling alone. Active listening and hands-on activities helped students empathize with the immigration experience.

The packed schedule allowed for rich conversation within the academic divisions, but also paired upper school students with lower schoolers and middle school students with upper schoolers for cross-divisional learning.

West African Dancers work with students

The event falls just as immigration becomes the hot topic of discussion both locally and nationally.

“Immigration is so topical right now,” said one senior. “And there’s so much prejudice out there. I’m really proud that Friends wants to encourage understanding and compassion…It’s so Friends!”


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