What’s Your Story? 2012 Premiere

First Person American presents the What’s Your Story? 2012 Premiere – a collection of short films that explore personal immigration narratives from high school students

NEW YORK, NY, July 13, 2012—First Person American and the Human Rights class at Newcomers High School present What’s Your Story? 2012—a premiere showcasing short films that explore personal immigration narratives from high school students about the people that welcomed them and changed their lives forever. The National Park Service (NPS) will host the What’s Your Story? NYC Premiere on Friday, July 20, 2012 2–4pm, at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, part of Statue of Liberty National Monument.

What’s Your Story? 2012 will premiere four short films: Welcoming Stories Behind the Scenes, a short film that shows how the students transformed from storyteller to activist, as well as three student-produced short films of Dino’s Welcoming Story, Masuma’s Welcoming Story, and Yasmany’s Welcoming Story. Additionally, Newcomers High School students will share how they became a welcoming person, and will give tips to guests on how to be more welcoming to immigrants in their local communities. Following the premiere, guests will be encouraged to stay and create a Welcoming Story with First Person American.

The films produced for What’s Your Story? 2012 were created as part of a Welcoming Stories Workshop that took place with Julie Mann’s Human Rights class at Newcomers High School—a 100% immigrant high school in Long Island City. The workshop was funded, in part, by the Facing History and Ourselves, Margot Stern Strom Teaching Award. Ms. Mann, the 2012 recipient of the Margot Stern Strom Teaching Award, has been a Facing History teacher for more than a decade, using the materials and pedagogies provided the organization.

The Welcoming Stories Workshop is an education outreach program created by First Person American that integrates storytelling, journalism, activism and video production to help immigrants gain a deeper understanding of immigrant assimilation. By partnering with the Human Rights class, First Person American gave students the opportunity to explore how sharing their immigration experiences can improve human rights for other immigrants. The Welcoming Stories Workshop culminated with a student assembly on June 1, 2012 at Newcomers High School.

With Ellis Island as a backdrop, What’s Your Story? 2012 will show the tremendous impact small acts of kindness had during Dino’s, Masuma’s, and Yasmany’s assimilation into American life and show how students transformed from storytellers to activists:

  • Dino shares his story of coming to America from Montenegro in 2010.  Dino talks about having the opportunity to do something his father never did, the difficulty of leaving behind his younger brother, and his love of soccer.  Now as the captain of the Newcomers High School soccer team, Dino reflects on how his coach, Mr. Llull, helped him on and off the field.
  • Masuma talks about leaving Bangladesh with her family when she was 15. Masuma’s initial excitement about coming to the United States was quickly replaced by fear once she realized how little she could communicate. Masuma shares her gratitude for her best friend, Anjum, who helped Masuma learn English and overcome her fears.
  • Yasmany shares his story of coming to the United States from Cuba in 2008. Yasmany’s wild imagination allowed him to create a glamorous vision of himself in the United States. He reveals his initial disappointment about arriving in Miami. Yasmany divulges that a move to New York, and becoming best friends with two other immigrant students, Mike and Yandoli, allowed him to finally discover his American “swag”.
  • The students of Julie Mann’s Human Rights class reflect on their experience during the Welcoming Stories Workshop. They share why it was important to tell their story, what they learned during the workshop, and how telling their story has empowered them to become a welcoming person.

“The NPS is eager to tell the comprehensive story of American Immigration and Migration on Ellis Island,” said John Hnedak, Deputy Superintendent for Statue of Liberty NM and Ellis Island. “Having focused on the Ellis Island years (1892-1954) since we opened the island to the public in 1990, we are now poised to greatly expand the stories we tell. In partnership with the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, we recently opened “Before Ellis Island”—the first phase of the new “Peopling of America” exhibit. The final phase of the project will be completed within the next year and feature dynamic exhibits on modern immigration and the idea and ideals of citizenship. The stories of the students of Newcomers High School are wonderful illustrations of the concepts embodied in these exhibits and living testimony to the importance of diversity in the shaping of this nation.”

What’s Your Story? 2012 Premiere

When: Friday, July 20, 2012
Where: The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Theater 2
Time: 2PM–4PM
Tickets: http://whatsyourstory2012.eventbrite.com/
Watch the Trailer:


First Person American focuses on stories of modern immigrants in the US, and explores what it means to be American through the lens of the immigrant in an expressive, personal and narrative style. First Person American aims to change the public’s perception of immigrants and to interject a new voice through deep and poignant portraits of people who immigrated to America. The mission of First Person American is to have a transformative effect on individual immigrant and non-immigrant lives and communities. First Person American is a recipient of the 2010 Sappi Ideas That Matter Grant and the 2011 Design Ignites Change Grant. For more information, please visit www.firstpersonamerican.org, follow us on Twitter @FPAmerican, and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/firstpersonamerican.


Newcomers High School was created to provide immigrant students with an academic program geared to achieve excellence by responding to their unique needs. In accomplishing this goal, our school has designed a rigorous instructional program, while at the same time providing our students and their parents with a supportive environment in their new country. The school serves 915 students 9–12 grade and is located in Long Island City, NY.


Julie Mann leads the Human Rights class at Newcomers High School. Students learn about human rights and how to help support these rights through their own tangible actions. Students learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and apply its principals to current situations. In recent years, the focus has been on human rights abuses against immigrants in the United States. Ms. Mann works in partnership with many human rights organizations such as Facing History and Ourselves, The Anti-Defamation League, Not in our Town, and most recently, First Person American. For more information, please visit www.niot.org/nios/newcomers and www.mannhumanrights.blogspot.com.


Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide and mass violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Facing History has provided in-depth seminars for more than 29,000 educators, and its active teacher network reaches nearly two million students annually. For more information, visit www.facinghistory.org.


The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and is one of the country’s most popular historic sites.  Opened on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island became the nation’s premier federal immigration station. In operation until 1954, more than 12 million immigrants were processed at the station. The main building was restored after 30 years of abandonment and opened as a museum on September 10, 1990. It has been estimated that more than 40 percent of America’s population today can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island.


The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 1982 to raise funds for and oversee the historic restorations of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, working in partnership with the National Park Service/U.S. Department of the Interior. In addition to restoring the monuments, the Foundation created a museum in the Statue’s base and the world-class Ellis Island Immigration Museum, The American Immigrant Wall of Honor®, the American Family Immigration History Center® and its newest project The Peopling of America® Center scheduled for completion in 2013. Its endowment has funded over 200 projects at the islands.

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