Esperanza Academy Students Exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 6, 2016. Philadelphia, PA. – Esperanza Academy Charter High School students will showcase their personal histories in the My Home, My History exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History on June 8th at 5:30 P.M.

Using primary documents from the National Archives and Records Administration as well as online resources such as census records and personal interviews, the exhibit explores students’ identities through their family histories and the histories of the home in which they currently reside. More than a history project, their research gives insight as to who they are and where they belong in the context of their community and American society.

This is the fourth year students have presented their exhibit in partnership with the National Archives and the third year that the National Museum of American Jewish History has hosted. These institutions along with the Philadelphia History Museum have supported the project through visits to their facilities and access to their own primary resources and workshops in how to utilize these documents and objects. All of the institutions demonstrate a strong dedication to giving underserved youth access to their history through the public archive.

“The National Archives is proud to again partner with Esperanza and the National Museum of American Jewish History” says Andrea Reidell, Education Specialist. “This collaborative project is an important part of our institutional mission and education outreach goals.”

“The National Museum of American Jewish History is a place where people of all backgrounds find a connection,” says CEO and Gwen Goodman Director, Ivy Barsky. “We are honored to be the host site once again for this important initiative as the Museum mirrors the students’ projects by exploring and sharing the stories of those who came before us and the choices and challenges they encountered as minorities and immigrants in a new country.”

“Through the ‘My Home, My History Project’ students connect historical forces that have shaped the Latino and African American experiences in the United States to the stories of their own families,” says Zac Steele, Social Studies Teacher at Esperanza Academy, “Students also analyze the forces that have shaped the communities they live in, particularly North Philadelphia. Our students often have ‘ah-ha moments’ when they learn a new family story, or understand the immigrant experience of their own grandparents, or examine the importance of cultural identity within the context of family. Over all, I think the project gives good closure to our course, as it allows students to intimately investigate our guiding question: Who am I?”

Esperanza Academy Charter School, which serves a student body that is 97% Hispanic and 3% African American, is located in the low-income Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia and is recognized as one of the country’s leading charter schools. One thing that differentiates Esperanza Academy from other schools in Philadelphia is a commitment to providing culturally relevant instruction including the class in which these projects take form, the Perspectives on Latino and African American History course which Steele teaches.

“In Mr.Steele’s class we had many memorable moments,” says Claudia Mora Espino, Esperanza Academy Freshman, “One of the most memorable parts in class was when I was able to talk to a real immigrant from Mexico. I was always interested in talking or interviewing someone that really went through the tough struggle  of having to walk and hide for days, putting her life in risk. This to me was a very important day because her story was inspiring and it made me realize that not all Mexicans come here to sell illegal things and do other improper stuff.”

Another student, Ramon Ramos says, “The most memorable part of this course were the Culture and Oppression Units in which we learned about our ancestors, the Tainos, and different indigenous cultures. In my research for the My Home My History Project I discovered that part of my family were immigrant slaves from Puerto Rico and that they were forced to work at a young age. My great-great grandparents were slaves from Puerto Rico who had moved to the United States and changed their last names so they could not be recognized as slaves.”

The struggle and triumph of the immigrant experience is shared by many communities especially the American Jewish community and is well documented in the National Archives. The opportunity of this partnership gives perspective to students navigating the current sociopolitical climate.

My Home, My History opens at the National Museum of American Jewish History with a reception honoring the participating students on June 8th at 5:30 PM, and will be on display through June 22nd. The opening reception is free and open to the public.

Esperanza, Inc., is a national community-based organization founded in 1987 by Rev. Luis Cortes & the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity with the biblical mandate to serve and advocate for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) in mind. What began as a local initiative, with programs targeted to address the unmet needs of North Philadelphia’s Hispanic community, Rev. Cortes is now sought by national and international leaders alike on issues of economic and workforce development, housing, immigration, and education. Under his leadership, Esperanza has grown from a small 20 person operation to more than 350 employees and a $35 million organization. For more information, please visit www.esperanza.us.

The National Archives at Philadelphia is one of 15 archives across the United States that comprise the National Archives’ nationwide network. The National Archives is our nation’s official record keeper. It holds the permanent records that document the rights and entitlements of Americans and our national heritage.

The National Museum of American Jewish History, located on historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, brings to life the more than 360-year history of Jews in America.  Tracing the stories of how Jewish immigrants became Jewish Americans, the Museum invites visitors of all backgrounds to share their own stories and reflect on how their histories and identities shape and are shaped by the American experience. An open door for all, NMAJH honors the past and contributes to a better future by sharing the power of imagination and ideas, culture and community, leadership and service, in ways that turn inspiration into action. For more information, including opening hours and pricing, visit NMAJH.org or call 215.923.3811.