Middle School Faculty Members Share Their Immigration Stories

On Monday, March 1, Head of Middle School Boni Luna and faculty members Adriana Arroyave and Archana Sankar shared their personal immigration stories with MBS 6th Graders, who are currently studying human migration in their geography classes.

Each speaker discussed the “push-pull” factors that led them to leave their homeland and seek a better life in the United States.

Spanish teacher Adriana Arroyave was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia, where a history of colonization and political instability led to wealth inequality and increased violence in the 1980s.

“It was a rough time to live in Colombia,” she recalled. “There was a lot of violence and it wasn’t safe.”

At the same time, her parents believed strongly that the United States could provide a better economic future for her family.  “My parents thought it would be safer in America and it would help us get a better education and ultimately a better job,” she said. “It was very difficult to put everything I had in two pieces of luggage and start a new life here. In the beginning, I didn’t know the language and would think about the friends and family back home. In the end, though, all of the ideas that my parents had really came through.”

At the end of her presentation by showing a picture of herself with her daughter, who recently graduated from an Ivy League college, the University of Pennsylvania.  She stated that throughout her journey, “Education has been my point of reference and the best opportunity to climb the ladder of success.”

Head of Middle School Boni Luna was born in a mountain village in Cuba and emigrated when she was just 7 years old.  “Fidel Castro was in power and it was a military dictatorship. To escape the political unrest, a lot of families sent their children to live with families in the United States until they themselves were able to leave,” said Mrs. Luna, who came to the U.S. with her grandparents to live with an uncle while the rest of her family stayed behind.

“It caused a lot of emotional pain to know you’d be separated from your family,” said Mrs. Luna.  She didn’t know how to speak English when she first arrived in the United States but became the first person in her family to graduate from high school and from college. “Education was the one thing that saved me,” she said. “When I see all of you, I know the power that education has to shape you and take you where you want to go.”

Mrs. Luna also showed the students ration cards from Cuba and a photo of her home, which her mother built after secretly taking buckets of sand from a local river and mixing her own cement. “It’s good for us to remember where we came from and the sacrifices that were made for us,” she said.

Science teacher Archana Sankar was born in Mumbai, India where she had a middle class upbringing and was taught English from an early age.  She and her husband ultimately decided to leave the country in 2001 after becoming increasingly uncomfortable with India’s population density and competition for resources. 

“We have 1 billion people in India, and a typical public school classroom has 80 students. Everything is very competitive and it’s not easy to get into college,” she said.  “In Mumbai, you also have the ultra-rich and you have the ultra-poor.  For people like me in the middle, it was hard to get anywhere.”

Two of Mrs. Sankar’s brothers had also moved to the United States to become doctors, which helped her decision.  Still, it’s never easy to leave your home country, she said.

“I had a good upbringing and I knew English, but it has still has taken me 15 years to feel settled here,” she said, adding that the educational and career opportunities in the United States are unparalleled.  

“If you work hard, there is no place in the world where you can achieve success like the United States,” she said. “If you work hard, you can achieve anything.”


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