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Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant Education

Event date: 
Saturday, October 22, 2022 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm

This event takes place in person at Charis and on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. This event is free, but registration is requested if you choose to attend in person, and required for virtual attendance. Click here to register to attend virtuallyClick here to register to attend in person. Please read the in-person event guidelines at the bottom of this page to be sure you can participate in the event.

Charis and the Global Village Project welcome Jessica Lander in conversation with Crispin Wilondja (Student and Community Engagement Manager at GVP), and Ms. Elise Wiit (Artist-In-Residence at GVP) for a discussion of Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant EducationA landmark work that weaves captivating stories about the past, present, and personal into an inspiring vision for how America can educate immigrant students. Global Village Project is for school refugee girls. The mission is to reactivate the education of refugee girls so they can access the benefits of a holistic education. The heart of GVP's work remains the commitment to advancing educational equity and empowering young women. The vision of GVP is that refugee girls have a safe place to learn and are equipped with the tools they need to surmount the barriers to equity and accelerate their education.

Setting out from her classroom, Jessica Lander takes the reader on a powerful and urgent journey to understand what it takes for immigrant students to become Americans. A compelling read for everyone who cares about America’s future, Making Americans brims with innovative ideas for educators and policymakers across the country.

Lander brings to life the history of America’s efforts to educate immigrants through rich stories, including these:

  • The Nebraska teacher arrested for teaching an eleven-year-old boy in German who took his case to the Supreme Court

  • The California families who overturned school segregation for Mexican American children

  • The Texas families who risked deportation to establish the right for undocumented children to attend public schools

She visits innovative classrooms across the country that work with immigrant-origin students, such as these:

  • The Global Village Project for refugee girls who have been kept from school by violence, poverty, and natural disaster in Georgia 

  • Five schools in Aurora, Colorado, that came together to collaborate with community groups, businesses, a hospital, and families to support newcomer children.

  • A North Carolina school district of more than 100 schools who rethought how they teach their immigrant-origin students

She shares inspiring stories of how seven of her own immigrant students created new homes in America, including the following:

  • The boy who escaped Baghdad and found a home in his school’s ROTC program

  • The daughter of Cambodian genocide survivors who dreamed of becoming a computer scientist

  • The orphaned boy who escaped violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and created a new community here

Making Americans is an exploration of immigrant education across the country told through key historical moments, current experiments to improve immigrant education, and profiles of immigrant students. Making Americans is a remarkable book that will reshape how we all think about nurturing one of America’s greatest assets: the newcomers who enrich this country with their energy, talents, and drive.

Jessica Lander is an award-winning teacher, writer and author. She teaches history and civics to recent immigrant students in a Massachusetts public high school and has won numerous awards for her teaching, including being named a Top 50 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize in 2021, presented by the Varkey Foundation. Jessica writes frequently about education policy and teaching. She is the author of Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant Education,  a coauthor of Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher’s Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success and the author of Driving Backwards.

Crispin Ilombe Wilondja is the GVP Student and Community Engagement Manager. Crispin is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and became a US Citizen in July 2018. Before coming to GVP, he worked as a refugee resettlement case manager for five years at Inspiritus, where he learned a lot about working with refugee families. With this experience, Crispin now works to build strong bridges between GVP and families. His critical task is to connect family needs to the school and make sure that GVP meets the educational needs of our students in a culturally responsive way. Crispin is also a Lutheran Pastor and serves as Mission Developer of Good Samaritan Ministries in Stone Mountain, GA, working with refugees who are arriving in the US to start a new life. Crispin speaks English, French, Swahili, Lingala, Kikongo, Kirega and Kibembe.

As GVP's Artist in Residence, Elise Witt heads up the Music Team, teaching weekly music classes, preparing student performances for Authors’ Teas, and leading the Global Village Chorus, a select group of students who represent GVP in the larger community. Collaborating with classroom teachers, Elise also writes songs with students about academic subjects of study and areas of interest. In her life outside GVP, Elise’s concerts of Global, Local & Homemade Songs™ and her Impromptu Glorious Chorus™ workshops create and connect singing communities around the globe. Born in Switzerland, raised in NC, and since 1977 making her home in Atlanta, she speaks five languages fluently, sings in over a dozen, and has been a cultural ambassador to South Africa, Italy, Nicaragua, Switzerland, and China. Elise's latest CD We’re All BORN SINGING, is her 12th recording for EMWorld Records, and twenty-plus of her songs have been arranged for choruses and choirs in the Elise Witt Choral Series. She recently released All Singing: The Elise Witt Songbook, with 58 original songs, a few written with GVP students.

In-person event guidelines: 

  • RSVP is strongly recommended.

  • All attendees must wear a face mask at all times

  • Tickets are limited to restrict capacity and preference will be given to ticket holders.

  • We will begin seating people at 7 pm ET.

  • Additional copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event.

  • Home address is collected for contact tracing purposes.

  • This event will be live-streamed via crowdcast. Click here to register to attend virtually.

  • As a reminder: If you are not feeling well, please do not come to the event.

  • If you have any questions regarding these guidelines or to request specific accessibility accommodations, please contact or call the store at 404-524-0304

If you would like to watch the virtual event with computer-generated captions, please watch in Google Chrome and enable captions. If you have other accessibility needs or if you are someone who has skills in making digital events more accessible please don't hesitate to reach out to We are actively learning the best practices for this technology and we welcome your feedback as we continue to connect across distances.

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Event address: 
A Charis Hybrid (in-person + virtual) Event
184 S. Candler Street
Decatur, GA 30030
Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant Education By Jessica Lander Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807006658
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Beacon Press - October 4th, 2022

A landmark work that weaves captivating stories about the past, present, and personal into an inspiring vision for how America can educate immigrant students

Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher's Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success By Karen Mapp, Ilene Carver, Jessica Lander Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545842402
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Professional - July 6th, 2017

Teachers and administrators will learn how to create the respectful, trusting relationships with families necessary to build the educational partnerships that best support children’s learning.

Event Summary: 
A landmark work that weaves captivating stories about the past, present, and personal into an inspiring vision for how America can educate immigrant students.