Residents Encouraged to Share Immigration Stories

PARAMUS, N.J. – As the United States prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that recalls the immigration experiences of the country’s first English settlers, Bergen Community College has launched a comprehensive oral history research initiative to document the stories of first- and second-generation Bergen County immigrants.

The College has issued an open call for submissions from all individuals living in Bergen County to provide their stories at

Conceived by Bergen faculty members Tim Blunk, Christine Eubank, Ph.D., and Leigh Jonaitis, Ed.D., the “East80West” humanities project features three elements: a collection of oral histories from Bergen County residents; a verbatim theater production that includes content derived from the testimonials; and the “Arrivals/Departures” art exhibition of work curated by the California-based Cece Carpio in Gallery Bergen.

The East80West initiative draws its inspiration from the College’s annual “common read,” which encourages students, faculty and staff to read the same book - “A Map is Only One Story: Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family and the Meaning of Home” - and participate in activities, projects and discussions about the work. Combined, the initiatives represent major efforts in the College’s expanded diversity, equity and inclusion activities that seek to enhance belongingness at Bergen.

To collect the testimonials, the College will leverage the “TheirStory” online video recording platform. All interested Bergen County residents can share their stories in their own voices at and In addition to becoming part of a permanent digital history archive, faculty organizers will use selections from the testimonials for a verbatim theater project centered on local stories of migration/immigration. Verbatim theater, a form of documentary work based on the spoken words of real people, creates a platform for the silent or marginalized in society to speak to engaged audience. The College will collect testimonials through the spring semester.

The verbatim theater performance and the opening of the Arrivals/Departures art exhibition will take place in 2024.

For more information, visit or email or

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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