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Equity & Diversity

5th Grader’s Poem: ‘He Loved America Both Good and Bad’

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 02, 2011 1 min read

A California 5th grader’s poem about her grandfather, an immigrant from China, has been selected as the winning entry for the “Celebrate America” contest sponsored by the Washington-based American Immigration Council. (Hat tip to ImmigProf Blog.)

With the contest, volunteer attorneys visit 5th grade classrooms to talk about immigration and provide information about the competition. This year’s judges included big names such as Randi Weingarten, the president of the America Federation for Teachers, and U.S. Senator Dan Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii.

Maya Young Wong, a student at Castelar Elementary School in Altadena, Calif., based her winning poem on the life of her “Grandfather Ben,” who died before she was born, but whose life was honored in stories told to Maya by her grandmother.

I like how the poem reflects Maya’s understanding that her grandfather’s life wasn’t easy in the United States. When it came to jobs, “chances for Chinese were least to fewest,” she says. After getting shot as a soldier in World War II, she writes, “He didn’t win any fame or medals/Just came back home to wed and settle.”

She concludes, “He loved America both good and bad.”

For teachers looking for an assignment on immigration that will provide students with an authentic audience, next year’s ‘Celebrate America’ contest might be the answer.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.