Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Discover the “Celebrate America” Effect



The American Immigration Council’s “Celebrate America” fifth grade Creative Writing Contest began 19 years ago with just a couple dozen entries. Today, it has grown to over 5,000 entries annually! Since 1997, close to 75,000 students, from nearly 750 schools across the nation have participated. Each year, students write around the theme “Why I’m Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants.”

What continues to surprise us about the contest are the multiple and unforeseen ways the contest affects communities, schools, and individuals.

Click here to read about the evolution of the contest and its impact.

Lasting Relationships

From this contest, we have been able to forge lasting relationships focused on a shared commitment to raising awareness and understanding about immigration and the important role of youth voices. Two immediate examples with extensions for the classroom include:

1) Last year, we had the privilege of meeting the local winner of the Washington, D.C. metro area contest, Marlyse Ngouabe. She read her winning entry at a naturalization oath ceremony along with the national winner, Anya Frazer. Since then, Marlyse, now a sixth-grader continues to write young adult literature reviews on immigration-themed books that her peers might also find appealing to read. To read her latest book review on The Color of My Words, please click here.

“Celebrate America” fifth grade student winners read their entries at a naturalization oath ceremony at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Fairfax, VA on June 18, 2015. Pictured Left to Right: 2015 National Winner Anya Frazer, Washington, D.C. winner Marlyse Ngouabe, and Senior Manager of Education at the American Immigration Council, Claire Tesh.

2) Another perk of the contest is that we are extremely fortunate to have an accomplished list of celebrity judges who donate their time to read student entries. This year our judges are: Gerda Weissman-Klein, Founder of Citizenship Counts, Edwidge Danticat, award-winning author, Valentino Achak-Deng, Minister of Education in South Sudan, Arun Toke, founder of Skipping Stones Multicultural Magazine, and Anya Frazer, the 2015 Grand Prize Winner.

Many of our judges volunteer for subsequent years. Author Edwidge Danticat is a returning judge and her novels continue to engage a wide audience on immigration issues. To read our latest book review of her recently released novel, Untwine, please click here. 

Want to Get Involved?

There are many ways to get involved in our work to teach about immigration.
  • Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest - If you want to participate in next year’s contest, please click here. If you’ve previously participated in the contest and would like to be included in our 20th anniversary celebration by offering testimonials, please email us.
  • Book Reviews – Do you know an avid young writer or reader interested in the topic of immigration? Or have you read an immigration-themed book you’d like to review? We accept unsolicited reviews. Please email us for more information. 
  •  Lesson Plans – If you’ve used our lesson plans, we’d love to know how it went so we can continue to improve it or let us know about a resource or lesson plan you would like us to develop on immigration. Please use this feedback form or email us.  
  • Community Grants – We offer community grants to teach about immigration. Click here to learn more and apply.

If you like what we do, please forward this email to a friend or colleague, tell them about us, and share with them this link http://bit.ly/1KdE5Zz to sign up for updates and resources to teach immigration at no cost. Follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration #teachimmigration.