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The pain of a divided nation felt by children

Kids on hopes, fears
Kids on hopes, fears 07:37

STEDWICK COUNTY, Md.-- Just 25 miles from the nation’s capital, a group of 10  and 11-year-old students have been thinking a lot about inauguration day.

“Tell me your feelings,” CBS News correspondent Peter Van Sant asked the group. “Donald Trump, has been inaugurated as president of the United States.”

Stedwick Elementary students with Peter Van Sant
Stwewick Elementary students share their fears and hopes with Peter Van Sant CBS News

“I feel -- I actually feel really scared. But I try and I-- I try not to think about it,” said Lynn.

“I think it’s different now since Donald Trump’s president,”said Gio. “I think there has been an increase of racist people.”

“In the last year, I’ve heard people … who said things that I won’t say because I know I can’t say them,” added Perry.

Many adults would agree and argue that, during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s blunt talk and questionable behavior unleashed a crude side of our American identity that some thought was buried in our past.

And all this tough talk has certainly been noticed by fifth graders at the Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery County, Md. The students represent the diversity that is the United States.

Lynn’s mother is from the African nation of Togo. “I’m worried for my friends,” she told Van Sant.

Giovanni’s parents are from Nicaragua and Peru. “Now that we have a new president, people are like thinking wrong and doing stuff badder,” he said.

Noora’s parents came here from Indonesia. “When I heard Donald Trump first became elected, I felt a bit shook,” she said.

Perry’s mom and dad are from Cameroon. “I’m kinda panicked … he’s gonna do what he said … and he’s gonna take people away.”

Even Brian is worried -- and his parents are from Maryland. “The things he said about other people is not what a president should say.”

Teacher Melinda Nwoye asked her students to write poems about what they’d heard people saying about them.

“I had overheard students talking about negative things that they had heard about Mexicans and in my classrooms, I actually had Mexican students,” said Nwoye.

The Lie by Untitled Productions on Vimeo

Their poems that were turned into a short video called “The Lie.”

“All the words in the film are their own,” Nwoye explained. “It’s what they wanted to share and what they wanted others to know.”

Peggy Pastor is the school principal. Her son, Kevin Pastor, a professional filmmaker, produced the video.

“Peggy, give me a sense of when you watched ‘The Lie’ for the first time, what impact did it have on you?” Van Sant asked.

“I broke into tears and I had heard the entire poetry presentation how many times?” the principal replied.

“When my dad pulls up the news and I just hear ‘Muslims are terrorists. Muslims are bad.’ I just feel really heartbroken,” Noora said.

Sana’s parents are from Inner Mongolia.  “It makes me kind of angry and I really just want to stand up for them, but like it’s really hard to ‘cause, you know, I’m just a small person in a big world.”

The sad truth is that Montgomery County has seen an epidemic of hate incidents in the past year.

“We saw a 32-percent increase from last year and the increase happened right after the election,” County Police Chief Tom Manger said. “For some folks, this notion of civility has gone right out of the window and these folks feel empowered now to say and do hateful things.”

Days after the election, at the predominately immigrant Episcopal Church of Our Savior in nearby Silver Spring, was vandalized with racist graffiti. Robert Harvey is the rector.

“One little boy came up to me afterwards after our 10 o’clock service was over and he looked right at that message that was written on the brick wall. ‘Trump Nation, Whites Only.’ And he said, ‘Is this the way it’s gonna be now?’” The Reverend said.

It is not an exaggeration to say that, among the tens of millions of people who did not vote for Donald Trump, there is a sense of apprehension -- even fear. One of those stories is in McKinney, Texas.

As she took the stage to give her valedictorian speech in June, 19-year-old Larissa Martinez was on top of the world, headed to Yale University on a full scholarship. But she felt it important to let her classmates -- and eventually the country -- in on her biggest secret:

Valedictorian reveals she's undocumented in g... 01:30

“On July 11th, it will be exactly 6 years since I moved to McKinney from Mexico City, where I was born and raised. … I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States.”

“Why did you decide to come out so publicly and in that moment? What was the thinking?” Van Sant asked.

“OK … the way I saw it was that maybe I could change people’s minds,” Larissa said of her speech. “I didn’t want them to think that all we are is rapists and criminals because that’s not true.”

Her immigration status was not an issue for Yale, but it was for some people on Twitter.

“’Larissa Martinez is not brave or strong. She is a thief. And there is only one way to deal with thieves like her,’” Larissa said, reading a negative tweet. “And then they posted this picture. ‘You have to go back.’”

Now Larissa is worried, because by coming out of the shadows, she has exposed her 11- year-old sister, Andrea, and their mother.  In 2010, all three flew to Texas on tourist visas fleeing, their mom says, an abusive husband; no wall would have stopped them. They simply stayed here illegally and since then have behaved pretty much like everyone else.

“I pay my taxes and I do everything we have to do. We are not bad. We just want to have … a happy life,” Larissa’s mother said.

Larissa and her sister have applied for juvenile immigration visas, but the girls and their mother can be deported at any time.

“I believe that everything we built, day by day, can be gone like this,” Larissa’s worried mother said, snapping her fingers.

“You don’t know what the future holds?” Van Sant asked.

“No,” she replied.

“What kind of America do you want to grow up in?” Van Sant asked the Stedwick students.

“I wanna be in an America where things like … hating people for their race won’t exist … and everybody’s about to get along with each other,” said Perry.

“I just want it to be nice and quiet so everybody could have their own chance,” said Noora.

And for Larissa? “I want to become an American,” she relied. “That dream hasn’t died yet.”

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