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Portraits of Promise

Voices of Successful Immigrant Students

by Michael Sadowski, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2013, 152 pp., $26.95 softcoverReview Portraits

Portraits of Promise: Voices of Successful Immigrant Students is a useful book for any educator who wants to make a difference. Through a compilation of one-on-one interviews with immigrant children, author Michael Sadowski broaches an issue that all individuals within the field of education need to pay attention to -- how to understand the factors that contribute to the success of immigrant students.

In addition, he discusses the classroom experiences, both positive and negative, of the students interviewed. The well-known saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is unmistakably taken to heart in this book as Sadowski, an assistant professor of education at Bard College, stresses the critical roles that various parties involved with children, particularly parents and teachers, play.

Because this book draws on the voices of students born outside the United States who have been successful in U.S. schools, the goal is to find out what they believe are the factors that have helped them succeed and what matters most as they acculturate from their homes in another country.

The students interviewed strongly felt that relationships, resistance to negative influences, parents and social networking are the criteria that have most significantly contributed to their success thus far. They also share their career choices and plans for their future. They aspire to be doctors, nurses, FBI agents, architects or engineers. The parents of these students have the same ambitions for their children as non-immigrants -- to have a better life than their parents. These parents either brought or sent their children to America to achieve a better education, the promise of opportunity and a better life.

Cheers to Sadowski for discussing an issue that is so visible, yet too often is ignored. Every educator should take note that old adage “one size doesn’t fit all” doesn’t just refer to students’ academic ability but also pertains to their cultural backgrounds. Although the book focuses on middle and high school, it has the potential to open the door for discussion of immigrant students of all ages.

Reviewed by Priscilla A. Boerger, associate professor of education, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.




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