Sixty-one new citizens were sworn-in at the Naturalization Ceremony held at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School on Feb. 8. (Hayleigh Gowans)
By Hayleigh Gowans
Students at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School last week got the chance to witness more than 60 people being sworn-in as new citizens of the United States during a naturalization ceremony held at the school as a supplement to Diversity Day. The Feb. 8 event was presided over by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, an alumna of Bishop Grimes.
The event included 61 people from 29 countries pledging their allegiance to the United States and officially becoming citizens.
“It’s my privilege to congratulate you as you begin this new chapter in lives. Citizenship as formally defined means membership in a community,” said Wiley Dancks. “Many of you probably struggled to get to this day … I am truly in awe of your courage. The ability to make your dream of a better life a reality is what makes the United States unique as a nation.”
The idea to host the naturalization ceremony at the school came from the No Place for Hate club, which held the inaugural Diversity Day on Feb. 8. Earlier in the day, students got the chance to take part in panels and discuss diversity with their peers.
According to faculty advisor Marni Nolan, the club wanted have a day where students could share their backgrounds and open a channel of communication between students regarding race and ethnicity.
“We wanted to give a chance for all of our students from different cultures to have a chance to share their culture with their classmates,” said Nolan.
“It’s so important, especially today, to focus and celebrate diversity. And today there is so much diversity,” said senior Zach Jones, student body president. “I hope they [students/peers] can take away how important immigrants are to our country’s history even today.”
Madeline Kujabi, a senior at BG and president of the International Club, said she had personal experience with cultural misunderstanding, having originally lived in Gambia before coming to the Syracuse area.
“When I initially came to the school, some students were afraid to ask me questions because they were afraid of offending me. But now they know they can ask things even if it doesn’t sound right and I can correct them,” said Kujabi. “It’s like we’re interviewing each other to understand each other academically, morally and culturally.”
For many, the process of becoming a citizen has been many years in the making.
Nithya Mandala, of Fayetteville, came to the United States from India in 2003 to study to become an engineer. She has had two children since being in the country, and it’s taken her nearly 14 years to get to the point of becoming a citizen. Her next goal is to help her husband on his path to citizenship, Mandala said.
“It’s great; it’s been a long journey. It’s the dream to settle down here and have a career and family,” said Mandala. “This is what America is.”
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features. I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.