Tag Archives: university settlement

Our Story, Your Story Revisited

Last week our students our students read their Your Story, Our Story submissions at the Tenement Museum. Here are some photos from the event:

Your Story, Our Story features objects that tell personal stories of American immigration and migration.

This national project uncovers the patterns that bind us, no matter where we came from or how long we’ve been here. Explore stories from across the country, upload the story of an object that carries meaning in your family, and join us in telling the story of American immigration and migration.

In collaboration with the Tenement Museum, Class E4 (taught by Allyn Wong) share their stories online.

Click here to read their stories!

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Family Literacy Night

Last Thursday some of our University Settlement Adult Literacy Program students brought their family along for dinner, reading, hands-on activities, and a book giveaway featuring the beloved Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. They had the opportunity to engage with their peers in an interactive and entertaining environment to support their continued growth as readers. Thanks to Families United for Learning and Literacy and Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House for arranging and hosting this great event!

Here are some more photos:

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Life on the Lower East Side Revisited

Here’s another essay based on a photo by Jacob Riis from our New York Rising classes. These were written as part of their Life on the Lower East Side Project, in which students were asked to write a short essay from the viewpoint of someone in the photo.


by Joyce Mei

You are looking at an alley with laundry hanging in the background.  There is a man in the center of the picture whose back is turned to us and there are also laundry lines hanging above.  At the bottom of the picture on the right side, there is a mother who is hugging a baby and a little girl who is seated right next to them.

There is another lady who is facing us, too. On the left side, a little boy is looking at us and someone, whose back is facing us, is working on something.  Even though there are garbage bags next to all of them, the place looks like their home and it seems like there is a family living there.  It also looks like it is a very bad environment, especially for a baby.

My whole family is in this picture.  I am the little boy who is standing on the left side in this picture and I am nine years old. This place is our home.  We just rented it a few days ago because my parents couldn’t afford an apartment.  We are new immigrants.  My mother is hugging my little brother and he’s three months old.  My sister is sitting right next to my mother, my father is trying to organize and clean up the space, and my grandma is looking around.

All of us are exhausted and starving because my father used all of our money to rent this spot so we would have a place to sleep tonight.  He is still looking for a job.  Even though I am nine years old, I really want to earn money to help support my family.  I saw a good street corner out there where I can shine people’s shoes, so I will definitely work harder to achieve this job!

Click here to read more.

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NY Rising Presents: Life on the Lower East Side

Life on the Lower East Side, 1850-1910

University Settlement’s New York Rising students spent last year learning how to be prepared for emergencies such as hurricanes, power outages, transportation disruptions and severe snowstorms.  Now, they are looking back in time and will explore three major disasters that impacted the lives of immigrants living on the Lower East Side of New York City…our very own University Settlement neighborhood.  They will learn about the great heat wave of 1896, the sinking of the USS Slocum in the East River, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

While each of these historic events resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, they also resulted in changes to laws that still impact our lives today at home and in the workplace.   However, before we looked at each event, the students began to learn in greater detail what life was like for a newly arrived immigrant…perhaps someone like you…who arrived not knowing how to speak English, not knowing where their family was going to live, and not knowing how they were going to earn a living.  Fortunately for us, reformer Jacob Riis was on the scene with his camera, documenting the conditions of those living on the Lower East Side.  So today we can see exactly how difficult and challenging their lives were.

University Settlement played a major part in helping new immigrants back in the 1880s and 1900s, just as it does today. You can learn more by clicking here.

The students each chose one of the photos published by Jacob Riis and were asked to write a short essay from the view point of someone in the photo.  We hope you enjoy their essays. Read one below and click here or on the link below to read more:


by Ada Huang

From the 1850’s through the early 1900’s, thousands of immigrants arrived in the United States and lived in New York City. I was the one of them.

My name is Nolan and I am 40 years old. I came from Ireland. I am very poor. I live in an old building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where rents for the crowded apartment buildings are low. There are 20 families living in my building, 4 on each floor. I live in a tiny room with 7 unmarried men. The room is dark, dirty and without windows. I only have one desk, one chair and one plank to sleep on. I have to put the plank on the desk and the chair back to make my bed at night and then put the plank away next to the wall during the day. Otherwise, there is no space.

The building is dark and airless because the buildings are packed close together. Some buildings are built in the yard between the front and the back of other buildings. We all sleep on the roof on hot summer nights even though it is dangerous. There is no electric lighting in the building. We only use gas lanterns to light the apartment at night and there is also no running water inside the apartment. We have to get water from an outside pump and everyday we have to share the one indoor toilet in the hallway. You can’t imagine how long we have to wait for the toilet every day, especially in the morning. We have to go to a public bath once a week to take a shower.

I worked for a very small coal company delivering coal. I worked 10 hours a day and 7 days a week. I needed to carry heavy containers of coal to the customers every day. Sadly, I lost my job a few days ago. Now, I only have a few pennies and a loaf of bread left. If I don’t find a new job soon, my landlord will kick me out.  What a hard life!

Click here to read more.

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My Life in My Country

Class 2P recently wrote about their lives before they came to the U.S. Read one below and take the quiz afterwards to test your comprehension:


Dan Dan Yang

My Life in China

I used to live in Fuzhou, China. I lived with my mother and our two dogs, Ruby and Rou Rou. They were two teddy puppies. They had curly brown hair. I used to take them to the toilet two times every day, in the morning and before bedtime.

I was a salesperson in my country. I worked at a department store in Fuzhou. This department store’s name was Fujian Dong Bai Group. I worked at the Revlon cosmetics counter. I loved and enjoyed my job. In my free time, I usually went out to eat, went to KTV to sing, went to the movies, and went shopping with my friends or coworkers. I loved my single life. I had a lot of free time when I was single. I could get up whenever I wanted and I could spend the day as I pleased. I could watch TV all night. I enjoyed the single life and I miss my single life.

After working for three years, I got married. I got married in 2012. My daughter was born in 2013. I immigrated to the U.S. with my daughter in 2014.

Click here to read more!

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