American Me: My Story, Their Story and Our Story

NHPRC QIH Assignment Title:

American Me: My Story, Their Story and Our Story

 NOTE: This assignment was created by the participant educator Kenneth Porter as part of the Queens Immigration History curriculum development project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission division of the National Archives (grant #DH-50022-16).  For more information on this grant project, please visit the Queens Immigration History website  at     

NHPRC QIH Assignment Creator:

Created by NHPRC Teacher Participant/Creator Kenneth Porter (C1, July 2017 – June 2018) Mr. Porter spent nearly fifteen years working for Verizon Communications in various management positions before leaving the corporate world to pursue a more rewarding course in education and youth development. Through his company, Mind Candy Media, Mr. Porter has published various books and partnered with youth agencies and schools to implement educational programming, character education and mentoring programs. After transitioning into teaching full time, he taught history at the middle school level.  He is currently a global history teacher at Epic High School South, in Queens, New York.  Most recently, he led a group of students to successfully win the New York City Urban Debate League’s Beginner Public Forum Championships, which was a major accomplishment for a group of students with no prior debate experience. Mr. Porter has a Masters of Science degree in Technology and Automation Management obtained from Polytechnic Institute of NYU and a Masters of Arts degree in Teaching obtained from Relay Graduate School of Education. He enjoys using his education, work and life experiences to transform the lives of our youth.


We all have different stories, reasons and various paths that we personally took or our relatives traversed to arrive at this nation of ours. Each journey is unique. For some, this may have been easy. For many others, their journeys were filled with hardship and sacrifices that had to be made in order to pursue and reach their ultimate goal. With this challenge, you will be tasked with researching the story of someone related to you, who emigrated to this country. This may be a parent, guardian, grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc. You will learn the when, the what, the why and the how behind their story, which ultimately reveals more about your story. Each story has a beginning. It’s time to research and learn more about yours!

Purpose/Learning Goal

1.  To apply historical thinking (complexity, causality, change over time, contingency, context). 

2. To create a project that connects world history to personal identity and family/community history through oral history interview and research.


With this challenge, student will be tasked with researching the story of someone related to you, who emigrated to this country. You will learn the when, the what, the why and the how behind their story, which ultimately reveals more about your story.


Task 1:  My Story

Complete a detailed identity chart, a two paragraph summary and a Bio-poem about yourself.

Task 2:  Their Story:

The first portion of this part of the challenge will be to record an interview with a family member or a relative who was not born in America and emigrated here. The interview will focus on the journey, the struggle and the reward. It is preferable that you conduct an interview with an older family member. However, if your family did not migrate here, you can interview a member of the local or school community. Ultimately, the goal is to capture the unique oral and written stories of an individual who came to the United States in search of a better life.

Potential questions for the interview:

  1. What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?

  2. When and where were you born?

  3. How did your family come to live there? What challenges did you face in your native country?

  4. Were there other family members in the area? Who?

  5. What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?

  6. Were there any special things about your community that you remember?

  7.  What is your earliest childhood memory?

  8. Describe the personalities of your family members.

  9. What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?

  10. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?

  11. How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?

  12.  Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?

  13. What do you know about your family surname? Does it have any significance?

  14. Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?

  15.  What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents?

  16. Why did you come to America? How did you get here? Was there anything challenging about your journey? What did they leave behind? If you had the choice, would you do it all again?

  17.  Has the American Dream been as you expected?

  18.  Have you personally experienced any prejudice or mistreatment due to the fact that you were an immigrant?

  19.  How has the citizenship process worked for you?

  20.  If there was one thing you could pass on to your children, what would it be?

Task 3: Identity Chart

Based on the information you have gathered, complete an identity chart for the individual you interviewed

EXTENTION ACTIVITY: Create a timeline capturing the key events taken from your interview

Task 4: Our Story

Complete a family tree going back as many generations as possible. This tree should start with you and include the person you interviewed as well, if they are related to you.

Task 5. Visual Presentation

Create a visual presentation that incorporates and compliments the edited audio interview you captured. Old Images, pictures, or personal artifacts should be shared that help to tell the story. Use of archived newspapers clips that may capture an important event that was brought out or referenced in the story can be utilized as well. 


Required Resources

Interview Questions:  Provided 

More Resources from the NHPRCQIH LibGuide:

Genealogy Tab –   assistance with family tree and Genealogy resources

Oral History Tab –  links to local NYC Oral History Projects for contributing.

Queens Memory Project Tab – assistance with conducting open ended Interviews, and for contributing to local archive

NYC Resources Tab – for demographic data, NYC historical newspapers 

TimelineJS Tab – for assistance with creating a timeline 



This NHPRC Teacher Participant assignment was created by Kenneth Porter

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States


Return to top