FCHS geography class tells powerful stories about school’s vibrant migrant community

Fort Collins High School teacher Nick Baltzell knows that in 20 years, his students likely won’t remember that they memorized statistics about global migration. But, he hopes, they might remember hearing and sharing powerful stories about their school’s own vibrant migrant community.

That’s why he created Humans of FCHS, a robust project that combines his class’s curriculum with photography, interviewing and storytelling. The result is a beautifully curated Instagram account full of striking portraits of Collins students who have immigrated to the U.S. for various reasons. Each photo is accompanied by a quote from the student pictured. Some of the quotes are somber, others excited and optimistic. All of them are deeply personal.

“What I want students to remember about migration is that it’s about humans with reasons to go to certain places in the world,” Baltzell said. 

  • Humans of Fort Collins High School Smiling Boy
  • Humans of Fort Collins High School Portrait of a Girl with a Red Scarf.
  • Humans of Fort Collins High School Smiling Boy Portrait
  • Humans of Fort Collins High School Girl Portrait
  • Humans of Fort Collins High School Smiling Girl Portrait

During the project, world geography students interview FCHS students who have immigrated to the U.S. The students ask questions based on what they’re learning in class. They prepare for the interviews by researching migration patterns in the countries where the interview subjects were originally from. The students also write reflections after the interview, and Baltzell said that based on what students have to say, he knows the experience is often very powerful and can even be life changing.

Rebekah, a sophomore in the class, interviewed a student from Mexico, and said the project helped her understand migration on a deeper level. 

“It’s very different doing research and just reading an article than to do an interview with a person who’s actually had that experience,” she said.

Gunnar, another student in the class, said he interviewed a student from Togo and got to learn about a beautiful country that he now wants to visit.

For these students, the project was a chance to gain a much deeper understanding of migration through the personal stories of FCHS students who generously shared their own experiences.

“This opportunity to hear many different stories and experiences helped me broaden my worldview,” Rebekah said. “It helped me understand.”