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“We shared their unique stories of immigration with anybody that would listen:” Here’s How My Classmates and I Made the World Better.

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    Yainiliz Lopez

Learn how Yainiliz Lopez and her classmates at Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) made the world better by sharing the stories of immigrants in their Connecticut community. 


As a young child, I never knew what stereotypes were…just how they felt. My name is Yainiliz Lopez and I was born in Puerto Rico. When I was three, my mother,  sister, and I immigrated to Connecticut from Puerto Rico for a better life with more opportunities for all of us.


At first, it was hard. When my mom spoke on the phone, people pretended like they didn’t understand her, even though we both knew she was saying the words clearly. They had made assumptions about her because of her accent. I worked hard throughout preschool and kindergarten to learn English.

Today, I am so proud to be a smart Puerto Rican young woman and a United States citizen. I attend Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) in New London, Connecticut.

ISAAC is an EL Education school, so we often do in-depth projects and become experts in different subjects. This year, my sixth grade class at ISAAC embarked on a journey to become experts on the topic of immigration. We focused on learning about different stereotypes that immigrants like me have faced in the United States, in the past and present. We worked harder than we’ve ever worked to become global citizens who can make a difference.  We wanted to see if describing the human experience of immigration could help change the people’s stereotypes about immigrants.

We worked harder than we’ve ever worked to become global citizens who can make a difference. We wanted to see if describing the human experience of immigration could help change the people’s stereotypes about immigrants.​ Yainiliz Lopez

At first when we heard about how our work might impact our community, we did not believe it could make that big of a difference...How can a bunch of sixth graders make an impact?

Then, we jumped into our jobs throughout the entire school day in all of our classes. Together, my classmates and I interviewed 16 immigrants throughout southeastern Connecticut, all from different countries across the world. We shared their unique human stories of immigration with anybody that would listen.

My team of six interviewed a man named Fiyin from Lagos, Nigeria. Fiyin came to Connecticut to join his wife, who had lived in America for the last 15 years. Like my mom and I, he also struggled to speak the language and understand this country at first. When he arrived in the U.S and saw stop signs, he didn’t know you were supposed to stop at them! He didn’t know how to park, either, so one time he parked in the middle of the road. When he got a job as a phone operator—he was cursed at, and accused of being a member of ISIS—they didn’t believe that he was American because of his accent! This reminded me of the difficulties my mother had experienced being understood and respected in phone conversations.

To share the stories of people like Fiyin, we became historical analysts in social studies, climate specialists in science, mathematical map makers in math, writers of heroic journeys in Language Arts, website designers, video producers, creators, professional photographers, and editors…we did A LOT of editing!  We were sharing each of our immigrant’s stories with the world. We had to get it right.

It took a lot of hard work—but we created an interactive book with quotations from our interviews, photographs we took, and stories we wrote about their heroic journeys. Each story in the book has a QR code that takes you to websites we created that have sound clips from our interviews in Youtube videos and more details about these wonderful community members.  

Now that we have presented our work to the community, we are reflecting on everything we learned. I’ve learned that we all have our own journeys. I got to know these people, not as immigrants, but as humans that immigrated. I am still supporting these members of my community. Next weekend, the Immigration Advocacy and Support Center is hosting a free clinic, and I’m volunteering because I want to hear and tell more stories from people who come to America.  

I’m proud to share our project with you here, on EL Education’s Models of Excellence site, and I hope it inspires you to see what you can do to make the world a better place

Yainiliz Lopez is a student at Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) in New London, Connecticut. She and her classmate Shem Adams will help kickoff EL Education’s 2018 National Conference with a speech about what happens when students like them set out to make the world better. Register here to join them at National Conference! You can learn more about the recognition their work has received here.