Southwest Charter School Students Host Naturalization Event

Thursday, 19 March 2015 07:00 | Written by
Portland Tribune

Inna Wilson watches as her son waves an American flag
PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KELSEY O’HALLORAN – Inna Wilson (left) watches as her son, Alexander Wilson, waves an American flag to celebrate her new citizenship.

Inna Wilson could hardly contain her excitement as she stepped onstage to receive her certificate as a new American citizen.

New citizens read the Oath of Allegiance
PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN – New citizens read the Oath of Allegiance during a nationalization ceremony at Southwest Charter School.

The ceremony was the culmination of a trimester-long lesson plan for the seventh- and eighth-grade students at the K-8 school in Southwest Portland.

“Our students have learned a little bit this past trimester about the challenging topic of immigration,” school director Anne Gurnee told the new citizens. “However, you all have lived it.”

During the ceremony, the school’s seventh-graders sang the national anthem and the new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance and said the Pledge of Allegiance together before walking onstage individually to receive their certificates.

Inna Wilson receives her certificate of citizenship
PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN – Inna Wilson (left) receives her certificate of citizenship from Michael Hickman, Portland Field Office director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Ceremony participants hailed from India, Fiji, Spain, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Ukraine, Guatemala, Romania and Brazil.

The students decorated the auditorium with flags from each participant’s home country and supplied food for a potluck — complete with an American flag cake for dessert. After the ceremony, several students, including seventh-grader Becca Gurnee and eighth-grader William Britton, interviewed the new citizens to learn their stories.

“It’s been interesting to know the hardships that people go through to gain a lifestyle that we’ve been living our entire lives,” William said.

Students read books about immigration and researched the home countries of the participants. Prior to this trimester, Becca said, “I’ve not really heard about immigration very often, or about things that happen to people, or about how hard they work to come here and how many risks they take.

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