Editor's Pick: Jessica Is an Immigrant

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33OINi3xVbc

Nearly 40 million people in the U.S. were born in another country and came here in search of a better life. One of these immigrants is Jessica, the inspirational focus of our September issue’s Different Like You feature. When she was in second grade, Jessica immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with her mother. Jessica’s transition wasn’t easy. It took her a long time for her to adjust to her new home, which included learning a new language and making new friends. Her mom struggled too—to find work and affordable housing, and both of them were in constant fear of being deported to Mexico. Now a well-adjusted and spirited teen, Jessica is sharing her story to help other teens through similar transitions, and to teach her peers about the struggles of an immigrant.

Unfortunately, Jessica’s hardships aren’t uncommon for children who move to the U.S., or for the children of immigrants. In 2009, then 9-year-old Katherine Figueroa made a splash in the media with her tearful plea to President Obama, begging that her parents not be deported after a raid of the car wash where they worked. After four years of activism, Katherine’s hard work paid off, and her parents were granted the right to stay in the U.S. But Katherine and her family know that the struggle isn’t over and that many of Katherine’s classmates and their families still live in fear of deportation.

With all of the legal and political strife surrounding immigration, it’s important for teens to recognize that this issue is more than just a policy or a law—it may be affecting kids in their class and other peers. As parents and educators, we should encourage our teens to reach out to students who feel alienated for whatever reason. If you’re in need of inspiration, watch this emotional video (above) from Not in Our Town (an anti-hate project that encourages building safe, inclusive communities) with your teen. In the video, St. Luke’s Middle School in Manhattan embarks on a journey to Newcomers High School in Long Island City in Queens to interview and learn more about teens who have recently immigrated to America from all over the world. It’s inspirational and emotional, and certainly worth taking a few minutes out of your day to watch.

We hope that these true teen stories will inspire your teens to try to understand different perspectives. Did the video resonate with you and your teens? Let us know in the comments below.