CHESTNUT HILL, MA (May 2013) – In her book, Youth Held at the Border: Immigration, Education and the Politics of Inclusion, Boston College education professor Lisa (Leigh) Patel invites readers to rethink assumptions about immigrant youth.
An associate professor at the Lynch School of Education, Patel spent six years working with an all-immigrant high school in Boston, conducting research on both young people and teachers. Her long-term relationships with immigrant youth and their families allowed her to tell their personal stories with important analysis about immigration law, health, and education.
While significant attention has focused on language acquisition for immigrant youth, Patel said she found a range of issues exerting powerful influences on the immigrant experiences of Boston teens.
"There are many borders that young immigrants encounter, long before and after the physical migration," said Patel. "While we tend to focus on language in education, there are many other life circumstances that play large roles, arguably even more significant, than English fluency."
The book grew out of Patel's work with teachers and students at a Boston high school. During her time at the school, Patel worked with teachers on instruction for English Language Learners, discussed issues and problems with students, and assisted staff members in the development of programs for after school homework, internships and pre-collegiate counseling.
"I began this project out of a close collaboration with immigrant youth and their teachers and seeing that even if education goes very smoothly, there are many other factors that can deeply impact the success of any young immigrant," said Patel, whose research focuses on the sociology of education. "These factors, such as family responsibilities and documentation status, are not often evident to educators."
To paint an accurate picture of the forces at play in the lives of immigrant teens, Patel undertook an in-depth exploration of their lives both in and outside of school.
"The research, which was collaborative, lasted more than five years, covers many contexts: school, home, work, church," said Patel. "The book uses rich detailed stories to shed light on many borders that young people encounter in and out of schools. It also points to the ways in which immigration reform can happen by adjusting a few of our core assumptions."
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