June 7, 2024

Naturalization ceremony welcomes new U.S. citizens in Raymond

By Nicole Levine

Gathered in front of students and family members at Raymond Elementary School, 16 individuals began their new journey as United States citizens on June 3.

A new citizen waves an American flag
during a U.S. Citizenship and 
Immigration Service Naturalization
ceremony at Raymond Elementary
School on Monday, June 3.
RES students and faculty opened up the school gymnasium to the public to conduct a Naturalization Ceremony there, welcoming individuals from 13 different countries, as the Raymond community gathered together to celebrate them becoming American citizens.

The ceremony was led by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Officer Jeffery Hamm.

“One of the ways our country is beautiful is our diversity,” Hamm said. “It offers a principal insight into how the United States is composed through its variety of backgrounds and cultures from around the globe. This concept only strengthens the meaning behind the ceremony.”

As the event drew to a close, the participants took the Oath of Allegiance, pledging their allegiance to the United States, officially earning their citizenship. Upon saying the final words of the oath, the audience erupted in applause. The new American citizens turned around toward their friends and family, with their smiles stretching ear to ear.

Hamm took the opportunity to also emphasize the importance of learning individual stories. Each one of the newly inducted citizens have their own unique journeys and fascinating stories to share.

One individual who gained her American citizenship on this day traveled all the way from Rwanda. Her motivation to move to the United States was her hope for finding a better life for her children.

All participants must take a test in order to obtain citizenship, where the process can be extensive and difficult, especially when English may not be the first language for many of them. Despite this, the Rwandan woman was determined and worked persistently over 13 years toward her goal of American citizenship, until she finally achieved it in 2024.

This was a day that will not be forgotten in the hearts of many. The RES students in attendance were also an integral part of what made this ceremony so particularly heartwarming.

Located on the wall behind the podium, students had hung colorful hand-drawn pictures and signs representing the American flag and included phrases such as “Welcome to the USA.'' Throughout the ceremony, the RES second- and third-grade chorus also sang American-themed patriotic songs to the new citizens, such as “The National Anthem,” “America the Beautiful,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and “This Pretty Planet.”

John Facella, Public Safety Educator for Raymond Fire and Rescue, along with two of his military veteran colleagues, carried the flags into the gym, while the students sang. Facella mentioned how Raymond Elementary has always been able to make the Naturalization Ceremony such a meaningful experience for all those involved.

Not only did the school create an incredibly welcoming environment, which provided a memorable day for the people being naturalized, it also served as an important learning experience for the students.

By being given the opportunity to see a diverse group of countries represented, it introduced them to a variety of cultures from around the world. This experience could also spark curiosity about their own family lineage.

In addition to the Naturalization Ceremony, during the prior week Facella offered an American flag lesson and demonstration to RES second graders. Within his lecture, he interactively taught the students about its history, how it was sewn, and why it is part of American culture to show respect to the flag. He also presented to the class an American Legion comic book, which also contains all this information in a visual format.

Facella explained that his motivation to teach the young students about the flag and its significance, is the importance of understanding its symbolism. He says that it represents the United States, the freedom we have, and the people who previously served to protect this country.

Facella’s flag demonstration served as a great introduction for the students, in relation to the Naturalization Ceremony. It illustrated the concept of being a United States citizen and provided a background for why these 16 individuals have worked so hard to become American citizens.

Both Facella’s presentation and the Naturalization Ceremony contributed to the students' understanding and expanded world view. Most of all, 16 people memorably earned their citizenship after all their hard work and dedication. <

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