Every year since its start in 1999, Edison High School (EHS) 11th grade United States History students have participated in the Ellis Island Experience, an educational activity put on by the school’s Social Science Department. Students take on the roles of characters who emigrated to the United States in 1908. This year, the simulation began on September 29 and lasted two days.
During the activity, participating students are tasked with adopting foreign accents, wearing period clothing, and trying their hardest to stay in character through a mock admission process to the United States. To begin the process, students must present their passports for examination and explain their family’s decision as to why they fled their homeland. Then, they are asked a series of questions about their character, beliefs, health, and vocation skills. Often times, the immigrants would also discuss their personal hopes and dreams in coming to the States.
“Emigrating” students clutch to their passports prior to taking their United States oath of citizenship.
Following this rigorous admission process, students were given an oath of citizenship if they passed the minimum requirements. Only few students were actually denied entry, often times due to an “infectious disease.”
The Ellis Island Experience is a long-standing tradition created by Edison’s Social Studies Department under the direction of teachers Brian Boone, Mike Walters, Jeff Harrell, Josh Bammer, Rick Meyers, Joel Bernstein, and student teacher Lucas Brawner.