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Immigration Through the Lens of Sixth Grade Girls

Listen to NWPR's interview Daisy Jamie & Seton Fitzmacken.

Photo courtesy of NWPR
Photo courtesy of NWPR

Were you ever an exchange student? You packed your rucksack and traveled abroad. And your eyes were opened to the world. Correspondent Anna King has the story of a different kind of exchange program. It brings together students from two different lands, who happen to live in the same state.

Daisy: I'm Daisy Jaime, I'm 11 years old and I go to Granger Middle School.

Seton: I'm Seton Fitzmacken, I'm 12 years old and I go to Lake Washington Girls Middle School.

Seton and Daisy act like typical sixth graders. At least they giggle a lot. But their worlds are very different.

Daisy's from a town near Yakima, Washington, of about 2,000 mostly Hispanic farmworkers. Seton is from Seattle. Population – half-a-million.

Seton: I mean I have neighbors and that's just an everyday thing to me. And then I realize that Daisy doesn't have neighbors.

Daisy: I live by a dairy where my dad works and there aren't a lot of people are there.

Reporter: So you have cows for neighbors.

Daisy: Yeahhhhh.

Reporter: Are they big cows?

Daisy: No

Reporter: Do you like em?

Daisy: No, cause it always stinks when we open the doors.

The girls are part of an exchange program between their two schools. Karen Kallander organized it. She's a teacher at Lake Washington Girls Middle School in Seattle.

The original goal was to teach the Seattle girls about migrant farmworkers.

But it turned into something more.

Kallander says that the Seattle and Granger girls became pen pals. And then she thought why not bring the girls together for an overnight visit?

Kallander: For us it's really important. These girls are city girls; they go to a private school. They have a perspective on who lives in our state and these girls are the same age as them. They have so much in common, but their lives are so different. And wouldn't it but fun to hang out and be real people with one another for a day and learn from each other.

The Granger girls hopped on a bus and then headed for Seattle.

The visit started with a song in Spanish performed by Kallander's students.

[song up]

The girls had a slumber party, played games in a city park and of course visited the Space Needle in Seattle.

Daisy: Scary for me. That was like my first time going up there. So I was really nervous.

Seton: I'd never been there either.

Reporter: What did you think about it when you first saw it?

Daisy: I didn't want to get on. I was scared of heights.

Reporter: Who convinced you to get on? Did your friend here …

Daisy: Yeah.. We went around the whole time stuck together. That was scary. It looked like it was going to tilt.

Clinging aside, Kallander hopes the students remember the experience later in their lives. Especially as the nation continues debating the laws on immigration.

Kallander: Many of these girls from Granger are children of migrant farm workers. Our students learned about the issues of immigration and migrant farmworkers in the state. Now they have friends that have done that work. And many of them have worked in the fields. Just to have perspective on that is really important. Just to have perspective now. It's so important. I think in a small way it will open their minds up a little bit.

But this day, the girls are just happy to play a name game outside.

[name game]

It's the girls from the two sides of Washington. Just enjoying being girls.

[name game]

Anna King, Northwest Public Radio.
Posted with Permission of NWPR.


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