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History Heroes: Students in Colorado Uncover Hidden Immigrant Stories

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    Elementary school students from Silverton School

Learn how Alejandro and Karely, two elementary school students from Silverton School in Colorado, became History Heroes in their local community.

As fourth and fifth graders who worked with our classmates to uncover forgotten pieces of history in our Colorado community, we heard questions along the way like, “Are these topics too much or appropriate for kids your age?” Some adults seemed to think that we should be sitting at a desk with our hands folded or completing worksheets. Instead, we decided to get out into the world and make a difference!

It all started when we took a close look at Colorado history. The further we dug, the more we realized that not only is all history not pretty, but sometimes the ugliest pieces get buried. We decided that all history deserves to be told. With that in mind, we chose to bring the little known story in our own community of Silverton, Colorado to the forefront: the violent expulsion of all Chinese immigrants in 1902.

We were shocked when we searched our local museums and archives about this time in our local history and nothing came up! Over months, we honed our historian skills by analyzing primary source documents, artifacts, and even went on a week long road trip adventure through the state. It was during that road trip that we had the opportunity to explore museums and interviewed Amache survivor, Jack Kimura. He was honest and courageous and he inspired us to become History Heroes.

When we came back from our trip, we got right to work and rebuilt Chinese gardens in town so that the whole community had a chance to get to know a part of our town’s culture. We also presented our history findings to a full house in the form of a play with a great script and costumes. This was the perfect way to honor the immigrants whose stories weren’t being told. We are so proud that, with the help of our teachers, we were able to go out into the world to learn, meet new people, and uncover a piece of history for our town. 

Alejandro and Karely are students at Silverton School in Colorado, an EL Education Network School. They will share their experiences at EL Education’s 2019 National Conference as student speakers and share what happens when students are empowered to do work that matters. Register today to join them at #ELNC19!