A grant from the Partners in Education, Arts and Community Empowerment (PEACE) Program and the Patchogue Arts Council is providing Hampton Bays High School students an outlet to express themselves and share their stories of immigration with the assistance of artist local Andrea Cote.
The project is part of a larger educational and social-emotional exercise inaugurated by English as a New Language teacher Alexa Toyas for her students during the 2021-2022 school year. To begin the project, the students shared their immigration stories in an essay form, practicing past-tense language, editing and punctuation. They also worked closely with high school social worker Maira Zavala to navigate the complexity of sharing their personal stories.
“Sharing their stories is not easy. It’s hard for them to talk about,” said Zavala.
To assist the students, Zavala taught them mindfulness skills and engaged them in a community circle, where they interacted with each other, shared their immigration stories and made connections. She was also able to gain a better understanding of the students’ needs to provide support.
Through the grant, the project has now expanded to incorporate various artistic mediums. Art teachers Keegan Bishop and Regina Papile have been able to guide the students through expressive art activities that included the exploration of art materials and transforming the students’ stories into impressive pieces of artwork. For her part, Cote is engaging the students in charting their respective immigration journeys and crafting images that depict what they observed and felt on a hand-drawn floor to ceiling map. She is also photographing them with their art.
“I was moved from the first time Alexa told me about this project,” said Cote. “The passion she had for her students and the vulnerability it took for the students to write of their experiences was inspiring. As an artist, I know how powerful sharing the work is — both for the young artists and writers to be seen and heard, and the importance of having the community engage with it. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Students indicated that the project is helping them to establish relationships with their peers and provided inspiration to explore art and writing.
The students’ stories, photographs, maps and images will all be incorporated into a display in their school.
Date Added: 3/23/2023