In Defense of the DREAM Act

by Sam M.

In preparation for our trip to Washington DC, 7th and 8th graders were asked to consider the pros and cons of the DREAM Act and to draft a short speech that included what they believed to be the three best points in defense of the DREAM Act.

In the Continental Congress, July 4th, 1776, a country was born. This was something crafted of change and equality, opportunity, and acceptance. This newborn baby was born of three guiding ideals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in whatever form that may take. These were dreamt up by the founding fathers, solidified by the revolutionaries, made larger by the pioneers of the west, made broader by the soldiers of the civil war, made more inclusive by the civil rights movements. It is time to write a new chapter in the book of the three morals. There is currently a chance to do so. It involves an issue that is old as the nation itself, immigration. This country is one consisting of 99.9% immigrants; even the founding fathers were not originally from this country. There is no doubt that they were Americans at heart and soul, but immigrants nonetheless. 

Currently, we are betraying our country. We are denying numerous youth immigrants the right to lawfully inhabit the United States of America. This in itself is a major infringement on the third principal. Not only are we denying them citizenship, but we are deporting them back to the countries they came from. Now, there is no denying that while America is the land of opportunity, it is also true that it cannot be held accountable for the failure of other countries to provide for their inhabitants therefore cannot assume the responsibility of taking in people simply because there countries are in turmoil. Or that those who enter the country illegally did not commit a crime. . However, the offspring of those undocumented immigrants may not even have recollection of entering the United States, and in a court of law, in most cases if a child under 18 commits a crime, the blame falls on the caregiver. So in order to truly follow the Ideals set forth by current laws, the young immigrants should be given a chance. 

Even if you disagree that they should be pardoned, they still have requirements that would aid in proving that the people that the D.R.E.A.M act would grant citizenship are people who would be educated and able, with no record of other criminal activity. Even though no person should be viewed in terms of economic gain, DREAMers would become taxpayers, which they aren’t now, but they’re already using resources, so really, the government would gain money by letting these immigrants in.  There is a part of this that may be viewed as a drawback, that many more officers would have to be added to the force in order to compensate the inevitable influx of applications, however if carefully studied one can gather that one, it creates more jobs in America, but also, it is more cost effective than financially supporting deportation officers and prisons.  So, with these factors weighing in on everything ,it is inhumane to believe that these young prosperous immigrants do not deserve a place in the land of opportunity.   

Friday in DC: Smithsonians, lunch, and...home

By Bradley, Kyle, Kai, and Altana

On Friday, before we came back to New York, we split up into groups and went to different Smithsonian museums.  Some people went to the American Indian Museum and others went to the American History Museum. My group went to the Air and Space museum.  In my group were Stefan, Cara J, Samuel M, and Nick. The Air and Space Museum explored how we discovered outer space and took us on an adventure seeing the history behind most of the spaceships used.  For example there was a model in an exhibit, which showed how the Russians and Americans combined their space stations because they landed in the same area in outer space.  We got to see an exhibit that showed the evolution of space suits that were used over time to explore outer space.  We learned about the Hubble telescope and other satellites in space.  We got to see a model of the first ship that landed on the moon.  At the end, before we left, we went to the gift shop and bought a bunch of souvenirs, including astronaut ice cream. Then we met up with everyone else for lunch.
Sam and Isaiah showing off some souvenirs and the Air and Space Museum
On Friday, Altana, Jamie, Erin, Tom and I went to explore the Freer museum. It is a small, lovely building, dedicated to Asian Art. After checking our bags, the first room we looked at was full of Indian art. Sculptures of Gods and Goddesses carved from dark stone lined the walls and sat in cases, there were gold plaited necklaces, mother of pearl boxes and a painted ivory dagger, along with paintings and scrolls. After the elaborate ceramics and sculptures we turned to Japanese screen paintings by Hokusai. Each screen was delicately painted with images of washer women, rushing rivers, blossoming plants and birds, townspeople. There were four of five long screens in the entire room. Next we walked towards Islamic ceramics, the most beautiful pots, pans and bowls decorated in Islamic script and tiny flowers and animals.  After Islam, came the slightly more modern paintings by an American artist, James McNeil Whistler. These paintings depicted models in Asia. The painting that struck me the most was of a young woman in a gorgeous, colorful kimono surrounded by treasures and a screen, holding paintings by another Japanese artist. It was beautiful. After these painting we took a look in the peacock room, an actual room that had been shipped over seas that was painted a deep blue green and decorated entirely in every color and shape of ceramic pot, vase and bowl, from many different lands. Golden peacocks were stenciled onto the wall next to paintings. The Freer was incredible, each room held history, culture and art on it’s walls and in glass cases.

After visiting the Freer Kai, Jamie, Erin, Tom, and myself also visited the Hirschhorn museum. It was a large cylindrical concrete building that looked like a giant ring. On the grass surrounding it there were many sculptures. When we walked inside, the gray sides dotted with glass windows framed the azure sky that could be seen through it’s center. When we came to the exhibits, we saw an exhibit called Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space. Inside the exhibit were many corridors that connected to different rooms that each had a different exhibit filled with light. There was a room that had a few smaller rooms within it that each had a different color light. You had to wear white plastic covers over your shoes (so as not make the pristine white floors dirty) as you walked through vibrant shades of blue, green, orange, and pink. The effect was otherworldly. After leaving that bright room, we came to another space that had long blue tendrils hanging from the ceiling to the floor. As we walked through the large square space they occupied, we pulled them aside and spun and just walked to feel them brush against us like tentacles. Then we went to a different room that had cushions on floor so that you could lay on the ground and look up at the light display on the ceiling. We were reluctant to leave the museum and when we did were longing to visit it again.

Then we all had lunch near our Bed and Breakfast before heading home. At Adams Morgan my group had originally decided to eat at a salad bar with some of the teachers. The choices were McDonalds, salad bar, falafel and pizza. After wandering around the neighborhood searching for the salad bar in vain, my friends and I, with Aeden and Cynthia, went to a tiny hole in the wall empanada place that apparently had won a Best Of DC award for its empanadas. I ordered a saltenas empanada, stuffed with chicken, olives, hard boiled egg, spices and other delicious ingredients, along with a dessert empanada with pear and almond paste. We sat outside because seats were limited and ate our empanadas together on the sidewalk. They were delicious. After we’d finished and it had started to rain, we walked to McDonalds to meet up with the group before heading home. When we got back to the Bed and Breakfast, our bus was waiting for us, so we put all of our luggage on the bus and headed home.

Thursday was Lobby Day

By Camrin and Rebecca

Thursday was the day we had been preparing for -- Lobby Day. We woke up really early, got dressed in our nice outfits and took the metro to meet the American Immigration Lawyers Association members that would be lobbying with us. There were some introductory speakers and then we split up into our lobby groups to discuss with the lawyers how our meetings were going to go and how the Representatives voted in the past and when and where we were going to meet for our first meeting. Each group of MCS students was paired with a few lawyers and had about three meetings during the day. Some groups met with people who have supported the DREAM Act in the past, some with people who did not support the DREAM Act in the past, and some with people who were undecided so we really had to know our stuff and be able to tailor our speeches for different audiences. My group first met up with the lawyers after we met up with our small lobbying groups. Then we went to our first meeting and had lunch and had an hour between our next meetings and laid out by the pond and talked about The Hunger Games. Then we had our last two meetings, which were very successful.

Lobbying was a great experience for me. I felt extremely prepared and I knew that I understood the DREAM Act when I debated with a Republican on if the DREAM Act should be passed or not. We were able to make a range of important points about the DREAM Act, including the importance of everyone having access to an education and the economic benefits to the entire country if the DREAM Act was passed. The whole feeling of getting my point across as a kid and having government officials listen to me was overwhelming. It was great to be with professional lawyers who did this as a living and could provide other points and statistics that we did not have. It was also great learning something knew from the lawyers or Tom between each meeting letting me say something new to each person in the government. 

 After spending all day at the capitol lobbying for the DREAM Act, a topic I’m very passionate about, we were all very tired and hungry.Then, we went to Flannery's brother in law's BBQ restaurant, The Standard. We sat at a really long picnic table and they brought us all sorts of delicious snacks including french fries, onion rings, and fried pickles. We could choose between having hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and pulled pork sandwiches as well. We had a lot of fun being outside eating the delicious food and reflecting on our successful day.The food was great, the place was jumping and energetic and everybody was happy. I myself got a grilled cheese (being a vegetarian) and a cream soda, but everybody was merrily eating enjoying a good time with all of our friends. 

After we had laughed the night away and gorged ourselves, we were given the two options. We could either go back to the hotel to change into much more comfortable clothes and then go to a park to get the rest of our energy out, or we could walk to the White House and back to see how it was lit up at night. As many of the people who know me quite well can tell you, I am a “political junkie.” I watch MSNBC every night religiously and I am a HUGE democrat. I see the White House constantly on TV, I hear about it in the news and I have seen many pictures of it. The one time I had been to the White House before the DC trip was before I was two, so I don’t remember it at all and when I was given the chance to see it I, I grabbed the chance.

A bunch of us started out on a trip we thought would be much shorter then it would turn out to be. Walking on feet that have been hurting all day is painful enough, but walking for a while with feet that have been hurting all day is 10 times more painful. The White House trip was so fun; I barely noticed my feet hurting. We passed old, beautiful buildings, garden and statues. We rode on each others backs and laughed the whole way there.

When we got there, it was a very emotional moment for me. I’m very proud of my country and of the leader of my country and to see the famous landmark standing there in front of me was a feeling of completeness. The house and garden around it is breath taking and we all were excited to be there. We took many pictures and yelled things to Obama that we knew he would love to hear if  he could. The night was a late one, but the best by far. The experience was amazing and I felt so privileged to have been able to do it with my friends who are family to me. 

Wednesday in DC -- Voto Latino, Food Trucks, Monuments, and More

By Khalil, Sophie, and Oni

Going to Voto Latino on Wednesday morning was very fun! Adrian and Sindy were great hosts and they knew how to keep our attention. First, they introduced themselves and told us what Voto Latino does. They work to register voters and encourage Latinos between 18-35 to vote. They do this in creative ways, like working with musicians and registering voters at their concerts and making Public Service Announcements with celebrities; they even use Facebook. Next we did an icebreaker where we were told to say our name, and our “peoples,” the groups that we identify with. For example: “I am Khalil and my peoples are science nerds and athletes!”  After the icebreaker, we were asked to write a piece about ourselves -- about our lives and maybe some of the challenges we have faced while growing up.  Voto Latino tries to connect personal stories with community concerns. We were supposed to take our stories and make a connection between our experiences and why we thought the DREAM Act or other legislation is important. For example, some people who were immigrants themselves or had immigrants in their families connected their stories of immigrating to the US for a better life to the experience of DREAMers. We then used these as a basis for creating fun and engaging Public Service Announcements for the DREAM Act. Then we said thank you and left. It was a fun, educational, and inspiring experience.

Sindy and Adrian from Voto Latino

After visiting Voto Latino we all walked down to Farraget Square where there was a huge statue with a lawn surrounded by food trucks. Now I know you might be thinking that food trucks are gross because you are thinking of the hot dog stands. But they are really cool. They are like restaurants on wheels. There were all different kinds of flavors and cultures. They included Hawaiian, Mexican, Gyros, Popcorn, Ethiopian, and Italian, etc. Everyone split into groups according to what you wanted to eat. I got Chicken Teriyaki from the Hawaiian Hula girl place. Everyone got different things to eat and they all looked really delicious. After everyone got their food we all sat down together and just hung out and enjoyed each other and the warm sunny day. After you were done eating you had the option of getting popcorn or frozen yogurt for dessert. The food was so good. It was a really fun time.

After lunch, we went back to our Bed and Breakfast and split into our lobby groups to prepare for Thursday’s lobby meetings. We brainstormed the most important aspects of the DREAM Act, so that we could be sure to make those points in our lobby meetings. Then we went out for a monument scavenger hunt.  Each group tried to answer trivia questions about the monuments, such as “Name two of the eight columns from the World War II memorial that have places engraved in them that are not part of the United States.”  The hunt was fun but exhausting, and we ended at the new Martin Luther King Memorial with barely enough energy to take a group picture.

At the World War II Memorial

Channeling our serious side at the Lincoln Memorial
After eating a delicious dinner at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, the fifth floor walked a couple blocks to Red Velvet  Cupcakery. It was a short walk from the White House. This is one of the most amazing cupcake shops I have ever been to. The first impression that you get from this place is that the cupcakes look great. They had a lot of flavors to choose from from Vanilla to Chocolate Peanut Butter.  The cupcakes were amazing. Now there wasn't enough space in Cupcakery to fit all 40 something of us so we went to the park. At the park we got to eat our cupcakes and just let out all of our energy from the day out before returning to the hotel. It was a great way to end the day.

The Metro

By Cara E.

To get around we rode the metro in Washington D.C. The metro there is very different form the subway in New York City. It very clean and the whole ride was very smooth. The first time getting on the metro was very scary because in order to go down to the metro you go down to flights of escalators. The first one was not bad. When you get on the second escalator it looks like to are about to fall over the face of the earth. Many people screamed and I heard many gasps. I could even feel my heart skip a beat. When you get down the second escalator you see a clean, modern, and smooth moving subway. For many of us it reminded us of The Hunger Games Train were they are heading to the capitol. The Metro was a great and clean way to get around the city.

Our first day in Washington DC!

 By Stef and HG

After our arrival at Washington D.C. we went to an office building for members of congress.  We met former history teacher Rachel Sussman, whose roommate works for Senator Max Baucus. From there, some of his staff took us through a series of tunnels to a secret train, which basically consisted of a small, open train car which we rode to the Capital Building.  Most of us were very excited about going on a secret train.  We then waited on a series of lines, and eventually gained access to the gallery in the Capital Building.  We were let in by groups by a very funny guard who made us all laugh once or twice.  We walked around the gallery, looking at beautiful pieces of art, and then we went to the Senate meeting room, and watch Barbara Boxer, a senator, argue for the passage of a transportation jobs bill.  We left all too soon, as we were only allowed about five minutes to watch the debate.  We then left the building and took pictures outside of the Capitol Building, and asked our tour guides questions about the Capitol Building.  Overall, we had an excellent time. 
We're riding the secret train!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was going to Ben’s Chili bowlwe headed off to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a DC institution, for dinner.  Our feast included unlimited French fries with chili and cheese sauces and then chili or half smokes or burgers.  We learned about the history of Ben’s and its connection to the African-American community.  We learned a lot from the guy who was speaking to us. I thought he was a very good speaker because he had my attention almost the whole time. I also understood what he was talking about - the importance of the Chili Bowl to the African American community in DC. The best part about the visit was that I was laughing with my friends. It was really fun because I don’t think I have ever laughed that hard before. The soda tasted so good and so did the fries. I didn’t really get to eat my hotdog because I was so full of fries. The hot dog tasted good especially because it had the famous chili sauce. I was the best night for me because I got to walk back to the playground with my friends right after. 
Then we went back to our Bed and Breakfast, the Adams Inn, for quiet time and bed. It was a great first day.

Fifth Floor Students Host Cultural Festival!

By Altana

This past Saturday we held a Cultural Festival at MCS! Visitors could listen to live entertainment, take yoga classes, get a henna tattoo, learn how to fold origami, create a dream catcher, munch on homemade food from around the world, learn about our activism project involving the DREAM Act, and much more. As I walked throughout the first and second floors, I saw people enjoying themselves. There was a feel on camaraderie in each person who smiled as they bought tickets to take part in the activities and made donations to help my class! It was amazing to me how our community could pull together to help two grades go on an activism trip to Washington D.C.. I believe that is one of the best parts of MCS; our community is always willing to help others to achieve their goals. 

Emma shows off her "Let's DREAM" cupcakes

African Drumming

Gabriella Callender of Mahina Movement
Kids made dream catchers and African masks at the crafts table


The day closed with a ceremony by Danza, an Aztec group