This past June, Steven Carrera, 14, moved from Guatemala to the U.S. when his aunt offered him an opportunity to come and live with her and study in America. The teen had to decide quickly if he …
This past June, Steven Carrera, 14, moved from Guatemala to the U.S. when his aunt offered him an opportunity to come and live with her and study in America. The teen had to decide quickly if he would go and soon boarded a plane, eventually settling in Cranston.
Carrera is one of roughly 130 sixth through eighth grade students who are in Cranston Public Schools’ Multilingual Learners (MLL) program housed at Hugh B. Bain Middle School. He and his classmates shared their journeys to America as well as stories of what they are thankful for during the MLL program’s Thanksgiving celebration on Nov. 22.
The Thanksgiving celebration started at Park View Middle School when the English as a Second Language (ESL) program – now known as MLL – was housed there. The program eventually moved to Bain Middle School where the celebration has since been held. The event was headed by the school’s Dream Team Teachers: Kerri Lapierre, Dino Bachini, Courtney Matarese, Joseph Ceraldi and Christian Whittaker as well as RI Reds: Sue Dean and Keo Phrathep.
On Tuesday, students and teachers gathered in the auditorium where Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse greeted everyone followed by Principal Keith Croft saying a few words. After the program’s welcoming portion, 23 students walked across the stage with flags representing each country that one of Cranston’s current MLL students is from. Christian Solis Cintron and Yadiel Moreno emceed the event followed by students enjoying a Thanksgiving feast. Tables were decorated in yellow and orange tablecloths with festive fall centerpieces.
Lapierre, who’s the MLL team leader and English teacher for the program, said the turkeys and dessert were donated by Dig In Dining and Entertainment and Aramark provided side dishes. The turkeys were brought to Cranston High School West for students to cook, followed by sending the poultry to Bain Middle School. Lapierre thanked Grace Swinski, Parent and Family Engagement Coordinator, for gift cards that allowed the MLL staff to pick more Thanksgiving foods at the market.
This year marks the first time since the pandemic that the Thanksgiving celebration fully returned. Last year, staff only served desserts to students and listened to essays on what they were thankful for and about their journey to America.
One of Lapierre’s favorite parts of the event is reading students’ essays.
“Until you read those stories, you don’t necessarily realize what’s going on in their home lives,” said Lapierre, adding that the stories may recount challenges or sacrifices they made to come here.
Many students shared their journey to America; the trip came with mixed feelings of excitement and sadness.
“I was happy because I got to have a new life and education,” shared Awa Ceesay, who moved from Gambia this past May. “I was sad because I was leaving my mom, my grandma, my siblings, aunts and uncles whom I had been with for twelve years.”
Thirteen-year-old Gabriel Isaias De oleo Morales was happy to move from the Dominican Republic to America in 2018 because he would see his family who already lived here. He wrote that his family came for a better life and education.
Students referenced some of the differences between their homeland and the U.S. such as food, holidays, weather, language and clothing.
“I noticed that school starts at different times of the year because in Guatemala they start in January and in America they start in September,” wrote Angel Carranza, who was born in Guatemala and came to the U.S. in 2018. “The food here is way different in terms of flavor and portions.”
Carrera, who spoke about moving in with his aunt, shared that there are more opportunities for school and for work here. He added that he talks to his parents and sister on FaceTime every day.
“I am happy to be in the United States because I came to learn English and make new friends and enjoy my family that I have in the United States, and to enjoy my country. And be able to graduate with excellence,” Carrera wrote in his essay.
Nhi Dao, 14, wrote about living in the city of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and moving to the states two years ago. Dao had to leave her mom behind, giving her a bouquet of roses to say goodbye. Doa then got on the plane with her dad and arrived in California.
“I hardly saw anything like Vietnam, such as food. There are dishes I have never eaten like takis, tapas, burritos and pretzels,” wrote Dao. “In the end my impression of American food was that all the food was too salty and the cakes here were too sweet for me.”
Several students shared what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving.
“One person I am thankful for is my mother. She is a very kind woman,” wrote Jeremy Sosa Ortiz.
He added that he was thankful for his home since some individuals are not as fortunate.
Yoskar Joaquin Pena shared that he’s thankful for his school, friends and family.
“I am thankful for school for teaching me things I did not know before and teaching me how to speak English,” wrote Pena.
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