Learning About American Life
Learning About American Life with the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York, NY
The Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC) has a long history of helping new immigrants assimilate into their new communities while learning about the culture and history of the United States. Created in 1988, the center originally guided many Irish immigrants on how to establish roots in this country, including how to open bank accounts, obtain driver’s licenses, access insurance, and apply for visas and Green Cards. Through USCIS’ Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program, EIIC continues to teach lawful permanent residents about what it means to live and thrive in the United States today and the importance of understanding the country’s history.
On July 6, 2018, EIIC organized an Independence Day celebration for its citizenship class students at the New-York Historical Society Museum. Students participated in a free guided tour where they could enjoy exhibitions and installations exploring U.S. history. They also watched New York Story, a short immersive film about the city’s history. The event focused on civic engagement and the vital role of immigrants in shaping the history and government of the United States.
Jazz is homegrown American music, a mix of West African and European influences that reflects the different cultures that have found a home in this country. To give people a taste of jazz, EIIC brought students to the 2018 Jazzmobile Block Party hosted by the Louis Armstrong House Museum on August 23, 2018. The event gave them an opportunity to learn about one of the most innovative, influential, and beloved American musicians of the 20th century. Many students were surprised to learn this museum was in their neighborhood.
The museum offered guided tours and music from two jazz quartets. At the event, the students reviewed educational materials about Armstrong, historical events from the 1920’s, and the meaning of his music within the context of the civil rights movement. Armstrong’s life inspired many of the EIIC students because of how he overcame both poverty and discrimination. With his personal history infused into his work, Armstrong’s music united people from diverse racial backgrounds and continues to speak a common language to people separated by cultural and linguistic barriers.
Celebrating Citizenship and Constitution Day, EIIC hosted its annual Citizenship Picnic Event at Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City on September 22, 2018. At the event, EIIC taught participants about the responsibilities, benefits, and eligibility requirements for naturalization and recognized students who have naturalized or are applying to become U.S. citizens. Students also reflected on what it means to be a U.S. citizen and reviewed our rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Starting with the first colonists, no American experience is complete without celebrating Thanksgiving. Over 100 participants attended EIIC’s multicultural Thanksgiving potluck dinner to share delicious international food and learn about Thanksgiving history and traditions. They also reviewed recent election outcomes and what comes next in the citizenship experience.
The event was held at the Community United Methodist Church of Jackson Heights, which is historically considered the birthplace of the board game Scrabble. Students enjoyed the game, which can be used as a learning tool for language skills.