Coming to America St. Gilbert Students Portray Immigrants for Catholic Schools Week
Holding a small accordion and wearing a fuzzy hat, Lepold Shick answers the processor's questions about immunizations for communicable disease, tetanus and arthritis.
The tag he wore said he was 46 years old, weak in physical strength, but a forceful speaker.
The man from Russia was actually fourth-grader Connor Higgins, who said he only knows a couple of notes on the accordion.
Higgins was among 180 third- and fourth-graders at St. Gilbert School in Grayslake who re-enacted an immigration experience as part of Catholic Schools Week. The theme for this year's week is "A Faith-Filled Future."
"It was people's faith that sometimes brought them to America," teacher Mary Fink said, adding that it was also their faith that sustained them through the hard times once they arrived.
Students researched immigration and chose characters from Russia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Germany or Scandinavia to portray.
"We're learning a lot of their stories and what it's like to go through Ellis Island," said fourth grader Haley Hunter, who portrayed 18-year-old Marina Piatkowski of Poland.
She said Piatkowski, who grew up on a farm, wanted to come to America to get an education. Plus, the Polish girl's mother was sick and had mental problems.
Some St. Gilbert students also portrayed processors.
"You have to be very suspicious and very harsh," student processor Jay Kleinofen said of his pretend job.
Yet, student processor Nicole Brate added, "It's hard when you have to deport people."
The activity at St. Gilbert is just one of many events occurring at Catholic schools throughout Lake County this week as part of a program sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Activities vary from school to school.
St. Mary of the Annunciation Fremont Center School near Mundelein held a breakfast for volunteers Monday and a faculty-vs.- students volleyball game Tuesday.
St. Joseph School in Libertyville ran a spelling bee Tuesday. The school also has an Asian-themed dance set for Thursday.
At St. Bede School in Ingleside, students will dress up as movie stars today and have a pep assembly Friday.
Students at St. Francis de Sales School in Lake Zurich will put on a variety show Friday, and a family dance is set for Saturday night in the church basement.
Teens at Carmel High School in Mundelein likely are looking forward to Friday's top-secret Student Appreciation Day activities.
"It's traditionally a day of surprises," schools spokeswoman Maureen Balzer said. "And the faculty looks at it as a day to thank students in very special ways."
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