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BHS Students Participate in Annual Ellis Island Simulation

Bolingbrook High School juniors took part in the immigration simulation last week.

Editor's note: The following is a press release from Valley View School District 365U. 

Their names were changed. They were yelled at. They were victims of discrimination. They were separated from their families. They were tossed in a detention center for no reason.

Dozens of Bolingbrook High School juniors learned what it was like to immigrate into the United States through Ellis Island, NY in the early 1900s thanks to an immigration simulation exercise Thursday.

“We want them to really understand what it was like for an immigrant to come to the United States,” said BHS American history teacher Heidi Moe. “They need to feel what it was like for people like my great grandfather who was detained for 7 days and my great grandmother who had to wait in New York City with a 6 month old baby not knowing if he got into the country or not. 

“We want them to feel that frustration and scariness.”

Moe and her co-teacher, Ken Kulawiak, set up various stations similar to what it would have been like at Ellis Island. Students had to go through an application check, a citizenship test, a medical exam and a literacy test before they received final clearance to enter the United States. Many of them were sent to a detention center manned by BHS Dean Nick Detman at some point in their journey.

Before simulation day, students spent several days learning about immigration procedures. After filling out “work sheets” once they made it into America, they will go through a debriefing session in the classroom and do a project detailing what they felt during the simulation.

“We want them to tell us about the frustration and all the emotion they felt,” Moe said.

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