Middle School Students Make Text-to-Life Connections

Mindy Nguyen, CCSA’s Director of Curriculum and Arts-Integration, is sharing her own personal story on immigration, acclimation, and identity.


Mindy felt compelled to share her immigration story, which she calls “From Vietnam to Indiana to Pennsylvania,” with CCSA’s middle school students as they read the book Front Desk in their English class. Selected by middle school english teachers, Front Desk tells the story of 10-year-old Mia, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who live and work at a motel.


Front Desk was introduced into the curriculum after students read Ghost Boys, a heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer. In reading Front Desk, students gained a better understanding of how racism affects different groups of people in different ways. Students were also able to compare and contrast the stereotypes experienced by

different communities, gain differing perspectives on Social Justice issues, and make text to life, text to text, and text to world connections.


To further emphasize the text to life connections, Mindy shared her own experience of immigration with the middle school students; as refugees of the Vietnam War, Mindy and her family were forced to flee from the home they had always known, Saigon, Vietnam, and come to the United States via a sponsorship program.

After Mindy shared her immigration story, the students were asked to send questions that she

would answer in a follow-up visit to the classes. The students asked thoughtful questions like “Has it ever been hard for you in America, especially now with what is going on in the Asian Community?” and “How emotionally difficult was it for you to be an immigrant?”

Ultimately, Mindy and the middle school teachers wanted students to take away that every immigrant's story is unique. She emphasized that “True, lasting justice –whether racial, economic, or gender –will only happen through honest conversations. Opportunities like this help students learn about each other and understand, not judge, each other’s experiences, skin color, accent, and living situation.”

This year, CCSA teachers are implementing Social Justice Standards by using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s educational program, Learning for Justice. The standards are being used to develop a school-wide language and foundation for students to talk about 4 key domains of social justice: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action.