|Centre students take New York
RELEASED: Jan. 20, 2005
DANVILLE, KYCentre students got a taste of the Big Apple for CentreTerm this year, when Spanish professors Julie James and Genny Ballard teamed up to take their classes to Manhattan for a three-week immersion in the city that never sleeps.
James' class, "Children and the Immigrant Experience,"and Ballard's class, "U.S. Latino Literature and Culture," both had a New York focal point, so it was only natural that they join forces.
"When I started planning my class I knew I only had three weeks to represent U.S. Latino literature and culture, and I wanted to give the students as full an experience as possible," says Ballard. "My class focuses on rural and urban Latinos, so I wanted to go to a major American city with a high Latino population. For me New York was a logical choice. When I began to plan travel to New York I discovered that both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim are currently running major exhibits of Latin American art. I also knew that I wanted my class to visit Spanish Harlem. As a class we read the novel Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quinoñez the week before the trip. Set in the tenements, streets and the Museo del Barrio, this story provided a road map for our visit to Spanish Harlem."
As for the decision to merge two classes, Ballard says "Early in planning Julie and I saw many benefits to traveling together. We thought it would be safest to have more than one professor on our trip."
"I felt the trip to the Statue of Liberty and [the Immigration Museum at] Ellis Island was unbelievable," says Matt Kowaleski, a freshman from Springboro, Ohio. "Seeing the statue close up provides that sense of what our ancestors felt when first arriving in this country. Along with that feeling, actually seeing six of my relatives' names in the Ellis Island museum definitely caught me off guard. I knew they migrated here years ago, but actually seeing their names in stone renewed some pride in my family heritage. "
Elizabeth Crouch, a freshman from Louisville, Ky., echoed Kowaleski's emotional response. "After finding my great-grandparents' names on the wall of immigrants, Ellis Island came alive. Every immigrant story posted on the museum walls seemed very real to me. I learned so much about how they suffered and struggled to come to America."
No visit to New York would be complete without food, and the students had a sumptuous introduction to New York dining: dim sum in Chinatown, New York-style pizza in Times Square, bagels in a Jewish deli, Cuban food in Spanish Harlem, and cannoli in Little Italy. When they weren't eating, the students found time to skate in the Rockefeller Center rink and visit such landmarks as the United Nations complex and Grand Central Station. Some students took in a New York Knicks basketball game and scored a celebrity sighting when they ran across Samuel Jackson and rapper LL Cool J.
At times, the classes took different paths through the city. Ballard's students went to the Museo del Barrio in Harlem, while James's students did a Big Onion Walking Tour of the Lower East Side, an area of the city that was central to the immigration experiences of Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans and Asian-Americans. The tour took them through Chinatown and Little Italy, and around the Five Points area, made famous in Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York.
During our visit," recalls James, "these interns talked to Centre students about their experiences with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and their overall impressions of the U.S. and its people. They also answered questions about discrimination, stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings. It was a terrific meeting of the minds."
After the get-together with the interns, Mr. Newman invited the students to enjoy a Brazilian churrascaria, a restaurant serving up an all-you-can-eat feast of meats carved from huge rotisserie skewers. "Waiters come to the table regularly with all different types of meat and you simply request what you likeand as much as you likeby flipping over a little coaster that is green on one side (for 'go' or 'please keep serving me') and red on the other (for 'stop'or 'I'm taking a break')," explains James. Some students declared that this was the "best meal they have ever had in their entire lives" and that they "would never forget the experience."
"In short," concludes James, "it was an excellent trip that really opened the students minds and exposed them to the many cultural wonders of New York."
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