Community Read Wrap-Up

How do you define who is an American?

Author Jose Antonio Vargas visited John Jay High School via a live webinar to discuss his best-selling work “Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.” All students were required to read the book over the summer and it was suggested for faculty and parents.

“Dear America" is a memoir by a young man who was born in the Philippines and sent to the United States when he was twelve to live with his grandparents. While applying for a driver’s permit, he found out that his papers were fake. Vargas spent the next almost twenty years keeping his immigration status a secret. Only after publicly admitting his undocumented status--risking his career and personal safety--was Vargas able to live his truth.

Jose Antonio Vargas' live Webinar with JJHS

telling his personal story and presenting facts without easy answers

The book was selected as John Jay's 2021 Community Read because of the questions it raises including, How do you define who is an American? How do we decide who gets to be a citizen?

"Every year, we choose a text that is topical and will enable us to teach civil discourse,” relates English teacher Vicky Weiss. “The topic this year is immigration. While we all may have different opinions on how immigration should work, it's clear that it's a system that needs to be fixed and that we must engage in empathy, recognizing the humanity of those coming to the U.S.”

Vargas’ conversation with the students ranged from how his 10th grade AP English teacher encouraged him to become a journalist to what home meant to him during the pandemic. He left the students with this final thought: “Mentorship is sacred. Seek one out. And when you can, be a mentor to someone else.”