Professor Wendy Mages Supports Immigrant Families Using the Power of Stories

Wendy Mages photo

Mercy College continues its longstanding partnership with Cabrini Immigrant Services (CIS) in Dobbs Ferry. Since last fall, Professor Wendy Mages, Ed.D. — a trained storyteller who teaches in the School of Education — has led events for CIS’ StoryTelling, Art, Reading and Socialization (STARS) program.

The partnership began many years ago when Mercy College assistant professor Barbara Keckler, Ph.D., arranged for her School of Education students to work with children at CIS. “Mercy College has helped to make our world a better place,” said Lorraine Campanelli, director of Cabrini Immigrant Services. “Dr. Keckler and her students helped so many of our children. And now, Dr. Mages shares her gift of storytelling with our children, adults and families.”

The STARS program is designed to promote literacy and a love of books. At each event, Mages reads aloud a book and engages the children in a conversation about the book or in a group storytelling activity. Then, the children do an art activity based on the book’s themes. At the end, each child gets to take home a copy of the book. 

During a STARS event in November, for example, Mages told the story “Where Are You From?” by Yamile Saied Mendez. Mages and Campanelli showed photos of their families and told their families’ immigration stories. Then, each child was given a blank booklet in which to place their own family’s photos and tell their family’s immigration story. Finally, children had the opportunity to share their stories with the group.

At another STARS event in December, a new child — a recent immigrant — joined in. As the children headed to the art area, a boy who is a frequent STARS participant and a fluent English speaker turned to the new boy and said, “I speak Spanish. Come sit with me. I can translate for you.” This was a memorable moment for Mages: “I can’t think of a better way to help a new immigrant feel welcome than by making a new friend who can support you as you learn English and adjust to your new surroundings.”

“Learning to speak and read in a new language isn’t easy and can feel daunting,” Mages said. “Yet, learning to speak and read in English can help make an immigrant’s journey easier and more successful. It’s my hope that the work I do in collaboration with Lorraine and the team at Cabrini Immigrant Services can help make a positive difference in the lives of the children and families who participate.”