Everyone has a story. Students at the Albany International Center have been working on writing theirs down.
The third graders, who knew varying levels of English at the start of the school year, have been working with their teacher’s teenage daughter to publish books about themselves. Olana Schillinger, a junior at Emma Willard, said she got the idea because she thought it would help the students get a better grasp of English.
“They were really excited when we came in to do it the first day when we started writing and it gives you a new perspective also just working with the kids,” says Olana.
While the books include details about how many siblings they have and what they want to be when they grow up, they also include topics about why their families moved to America.
For many of the children who came from Afghanistan, it was because they were fleeing the Taliban.
“A lot of places they came from, you know you hear some of the stories, and they came to America for certain reasons, to be able to tell their story based on where they came from and also what they like about America, I think it’s pretty amazing to be able to do that,” says Tammy Schillinger, the class’s teacher and Olana’s mother.
“I thought this is a great opportunity for them to be able to tell their own stories because they don’t always get the chance to do that,” says Olana.
It was also important for the books to be written in multiple languages, not just English. Olana and other translators worked with the students to get the words just right. This way, the books accurately reflect who the students are.
“I’ve heard my mom talk about one thing is that when they come to this country and they start learning English, they can sometimes lose some of their own language, which is really sad because it’s a part of them, it’s part of their culture, it’s part of who they are,” says Olana.
Now they’ll forever have a tangible copy of their identities. Something they’ll be able to hold onto throughout their lives.