Refugees find home in America

For Immaculee, the process was easier due to her experience as a French schoolteacher in the refugee camps; she already had a good grasp on grammar.

"I became very impressed with [Immaculee] the more I worked with her because she has so much talent and enthusiasm," Harrold said. "She has really done an amazing amount in her life with a lot of problems that she's faced and overcome."

When asked what keeps the family strong in the face of adversity, their responses echoed one another's: faith, prayer and their church community.

"My mom instilled in me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it," Lorina said. "Mom also told me that if I could live in a refugee camp, I can be strong and succeed at anything. When I get down, I pray and sing church songs."

When asked how it felt to become a U.S. citizen, Immaculee admitted to feeling both excited and scared. She said she knows that as a citizen, she has responsibilities, one of which is having the right to vote. She has already sought out friends from church to help her in the application process.

As for Lorina, she said she feels fantastic.

"Before, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere as I was born in Tanzania in the refugee camp, but I was not a Tanzanian citizen," she said. "I didn't live in Congo like my parents had and now I can vote, get a passport and I have a home country."

As a result of their parents' naturalization, Anna and Noella Mpinga, who are students in the F-M School District, also became citizens. Raphael, Magdalen and Furaha, all over age 18, will work to become citizens in the future. Raphael currently attends SUNY Cobbleskill, Magdalene is a student at Morrisville and Furaha will begin Le Moyne College this fall. Lorina, a junior at Hobart/William Smith College, plans to study abroad in Avignon, France during her spring semester at school.

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