Written by Communications Department Intern Anna Schmeltz
Maine East Freshman recently participated in the “We Are America Project” to share their personal stories to define what it means to be American for them. English teacher Eric Coval compiled all the students’ stories into a book. In the foreword of the book he writes, “In this series of We Are America stories, young freshmen speak truth to their upbringing, sharing deeply personal stories of growing up. They learn, they grow, they fight, they struggle, they succeed, they carry on, and they create a deeper understanding of who they are.”
The “We Are America Project” was founded in the 2018-2019 school year at Lowell High School, Mass., where teacher Jessica Lander came up with the idea to compile essays from her students that help to define and answer the question: What does it mean to be American? Each of her students shared a personal story to help start a local conversation about identity and belonging. The goal of the “We Are America Project” is to help spark a new national conversation around what it means to be American, and for that conversation to be led by students worldwide.
The “We Are America Project” has 36 teachers in 23 states across the country, who in turn are working with over 1,300 students. The project is also partnered with three national organizations: Facing History and Ourselves, Re-Imagining Migration, and New York’s Tenement Museum.
With Maine East High School being one of the most diverse schools in Illinois, with students from over 70 different countries who speak almost 50 different languages, Coval knew that “the various backgrounds of our school could come together to create an amazing tapestry of stories to represent this spectacular community.”
In their stories, students explore topics such as: learning their native language, meeting parents expectations, the importance of their heritage, and more. In addition to the book, the students’ stories are posted at: https://www.weareamericaproject.com/school/maine-east-high-school