Immigrant Voices

Contributor: Tara Ondra. Lesson ID: 13171

What does it mean to be an immigrant today in the U.S.? You'll hear the voices of teen immigrants talking about the challenges they face, and you'll have a chance to tell your story, too.


People and Their Environment

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Every one of us has a story. For many Americans, it is an immigration story.

We know some of these stories already:

  • Sergey Brin immigrated from Russia and co-created Google
  • Albert Einstein immigrated from Germany to Italy to Switzerland to Austria to Belgium and then to America

Most of the stories, however, we have not yet heard:

  • Blanca Alvarez immigrated from Mexico with her family

Watch "The Icing on the Cake" from StoryCorps to hear her story:

  • What other immigrant stories are there?
  • Who are immigrants today, and what challenges do they face?

You are an immigrant. You just arrived to the United States. Maybe you came by yourself to study. Maybe your whole family came seeking political asylum. Perhaps you came from El Salvador or perhaps from Iraq.

Regardless, your life has been uprooted and changed forever. You miss your home and your friends. Learning English is hard. Adapting to a new school is hard. But, your new home is safe. Your teachers are helpful, and your classmates are welcoming. You're excited to integrate into your new culture.

Transitioning to a new country has its ups and downs. But don't take my word for it. Listen to a first-hand account from Luincys, age 17, who is from the Dominican Republic. She'll tell you about how strange she felt when she first arrived to the U.S. and how scared she was on the first day of school.

As you watch Teen Immigrants (Excerpt) from InTheMixPBS, listen for Luincys' biggest challenges.

Luincys mentions the words discrimination, prejudice, and stereotype.

  • What do these words mean to you?

Discrimination can be defined as the act of making a distinction in favor of or against a person based on the group or category to which that person belongs rather than looking at that person as an individual. Discrimination can be related to any number of characteristics, including race, gender, age, or religion.

Prejudice is a preconceived opinion not based on actual experience. Believing your racial group is superior to another is an example of racial prejudice.

A stereotype is a widely held but oversimplified idea of a particular person or group. A few examples include:

  • "all Latinos have dark eyes and dark hair"
  • "all boys are good at sports"
  • "old people don't know how to use technology."

Luincys heard people stereotyping Dominicans as drug addicts.

  • How do you think that made her feel?
  • How did her teacher encourage her to fight against that stereotype?

Support from teachers, classmates, neighbors, and friends helps kids adjust to new surroundings.

  • Did you know that some cities have special schools for newly arrived immigrants?

Watch the Not In Our Town video below about Newcomers High School in Long Island City, New York and the struggles of the kids who go there.

New Immigrants Share Their Stories:

The video was not only about the obstacles new immigrants face but also about knocking down prejudices and building relationships between kids of different cultures.

If you are interested in hearing more stories like this, check out the Suggested Reading found in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up, we'll break down the types of challenges new immigrant teens can face. Click on NEXT to move on to the Got It? section.

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