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Regina Casale uses film to foster a sense of global citizenship in middle school students

Regina Casale uses film to foster a sense of global citizenship in middle school students

By Elizabeth Dwoskin

Ecuador has long fascinated Regina Casale—but it was a tragedy there in 2005 that changed her perspective on the relationship between education and immigration. A boat smuggling immigrants out of the country had capsized, killing almost everyone on board. Casale delayed a trip to Venezuela and instead traveled 12 hours to the scene of the disaster. One survivor was a young girl headed for New York who might have enrolled in Casale’s class that fall.

“I realized there is another side of immigration that we teachers don’t know,” says Casale, a doctoral candidate in TC’s Interdisciplinary Studies program. “It’s important for us to know what the kids are living back in their home country.”

Of course, the lives of young immigrants can be equally painful in the United States. During the past decade, several notorious hate crimes have plagued Suffolk County, where Casale teaches Spanish at Longwood Junior High School. One was a severe beating of two day laborers in Farmingville. Most recently an Ecuadorian immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was brutally murdered by Patchogue high school students. Casale was in shock. “It happened to someone in my community,” she says. “And then to find out that they were high school kids. As a teacher, I felt the education system had let them down.”

In solidarity with the Ecuadorian community Casale organized two initiatives to promote tolerance, a Diálogo Comunitario in Patchogue and Lucero de America, a nonprofit. She screened films for the Ecuadorian community on Long Island and, that summer, in Ecuador. She also facilitated a workshop for teenagers in Gualaceo, Ecuador who created the film “Real Nightmare,” about the life of “abandoned children” (children of emigrants).

“There aren’t many materials that discuss both sides of the immigration coin,” Casale says.

Last year, with a $65,000 Kellogg Foundation Racial Healing Initiative grant, Casale created the project “Life Through My Eyes,” which promotes parent/child involvement and the development of global leaders in the community. Offered with the help of Patchogue parents, the project offers immigrant and non-immigrant youth the chance to create short documentary films about their lives. “As language teachers, we can use film to foster global citizenship,” Casale says, adding that the power of film really struck her after she invited Marcelo Lucero’s brother, Joselo, to her school. Joselo Lucero shared movie clips with the students, and afterwards, “the Latino students had tears in their eyes,” Casale recalls. “Because here was someone telling their story.”

Published Friday, May. 20, 2011