May marked the end of the 19th annual American Immigration Counsel’s Celebrate America Creative Writing competition. Fifth grade students around the country discuss their personal or family immigration histories or write about broader issues facing immigrants in our country using the theme, “Why I am Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants.” Student submission range from essays to poetry to works of art, and often illustrate a depth of understanding and compassion beyond their authors’ years.
This year, PBL’s Anaiah Palmer participated as a judge in the local Oregon competition, which included 52 submissions from students in Portland, Gresham, and Corvallis. Anaiah volunteered as a judge because she enjoys reading the thoughtful, moving, and sometimes amusing submissions, but also because she feels it is important for the conversation about immigration to start at a young age. Hopefully when these students are making important decisions for our community in years to come they will do so with a greater understanding of the real-life impact those decisions can have.
The top ten winners from the Oregon competition attended a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. District Court on May 17, 2016 where they were able to witness the important culmination of the immigration process for our new citizens, and hear remarks from the Honorable Judge Mosman about the value of immigration in our community. The top three winners also read their essays to the new citizens, spectators, family and teachers.
Oregon’s first place winner, Zach Robel of Ashbook Elementary, will be an honored guest at the AILA Oregon Gala in October, a fundraiser for our local immigration non-profits, where he will be presented with an award and will read his essay again to the local immigration bar. The national winner, Eliana Jaffee from Arizona, will be honored at the American Immigration Counsel benefit dinner at the AILA Annual Convention in Las Vegas later this month.