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Speaker discusses SEK immigration history

Viva Italian classes are part of social studies classes for PSU students. The classes were offered Thursday, Sept. 27, in 221 Hughes Hall in two sessions. Kaitlin Webb, Pittsburg community member with Italian descent, visited to speak to PSU elementary social studies students at the Viva Italian classes. 

Webb shared her stories about Italian immigration and the power of knowing about heritage. She also talked about the railroads and their influence in advancing immigration as well as their ties to Immigrant Park.     

“Kaitlin comes from an Italian family and Italian history that existed here in Pittsburg, and how her family came here as immigrants and worked hard in mines and paid by pound to afford living,” Debbie Restivo, college of education lecturer, said. 

Webb talked discussed how Italian immigrants ended up coming to Pittsburg, Kansas, instead of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She said she felt the importance of writing stories that were significant to her and her family to be told to others who don’t know about the existence of Italian immigrants in southeast Kansas (SEK).  

“There was a railroad station here in Pittsburg by Broadway Street that Italian immigrants used to come to southeast Kansas through it,” Webb said. “This railroad station was significant in bringing the Italian culture and its people and food to this area. Some of the immigrants chose to stay in this area and start a new life through working in mines.”  

Students who attended expressed their knowledge and experience about Italian history through sharing their own Italian and European connections. Many had Italian descent, so they spent time learning about their heritage and how their SEK families are related to Italian immigration. Webb encouraged students to use their Italian voice and to understand how Italians and other immigrants come to the U.S. to search for better options for their family, also how they felt free and comfortable to practice their culture, food, and language. 

“The way that others see immigrants is just very sad and very upsetting when looking differently at immigrants and their kids especially in schools,” Webb said. “When students graduate with educational and teaching degrees and go out to the real world to teach kids they need to treat them all the same and fairly because when they do that they bring those kids to the front and build confidence and power in them to be able to be proud to speak about their heritage and their descent, instead of commanding them and send them to the back.” 

Webb also talked about negative publicity on social media and TV about immigrants and how they are said to have entered the country illegally. 

“Instead of showing the world that immigrants are legal, they followed the law, they showed and paid attention, and they got in the right way,” she said. “Illegal aliens are usually people without home. They leave their country because they’re struggling or facing some issues or life threats to their children and families. I take pride in my family, I’m proud to be Italian, and proud that I can make Italian food. All what those students need to show to kids is good interest, good American interest in them, because those kids will remember that somewhere they got somebody that got their back.”  

During the sessions, students were involved in activities such as making Italian snacks, learning Italian recipes and the different types of the Italian Pasta, and making crafts. 



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