While the terms ‘naturalization’ and ‘permanent residency’ may not be in the everyday language of middle school students, eighth graders at Rosa Parks acquired an authentic taste of one component in the US immigration process on Sept. 17 when their school hosted a special naturalization ceremony. During the ceremony, twenty-six people from 23 countries took their oath, while Rosa Parks Middle School students performed orchestral pieces, greeted the visitors, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance with the newest citizens.
The event, attended by USCIS associate director, Rendell Jones, was set to commemorate the National Constitution Day. Dr. Donna Reymond Jones, principal of Rosa Parks Middle School, reinforced the importance of reminding her students the foundational values of this country.
“These newly sworn-in citizens have really come a long way to receiving what they have today. Oftentimes students are taught of the foundational principles of this country in classrooms, and this is a rare opportunity for them to see those values come into play.”
Likewise, students at Rosa Park middle school showed positive responses to the ceremony. Prior to the occasion, many students participated in a poster contest, organized by the school’s art and social studies department, to capture an American value deemed most important to them. Alluding to concepts such as ‘freedom’ and ‘voice,’ artists of winning entries presented their works to newly sworn-in citizens.
In addition to the high ethnic diversity among students and staff of Montgomery County Public Schools, 13.3% of MCPS students have identified themselves as first-generation immigrants through enrollment in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program. Some of those students have highly personal experiences with the pathway to citizenship.
Tian, a student of Wootton High School, recounts attending distant preparatory classes with his mother months before taking the citizenship exam.
“It was difficult, my mom had a very busy work schedule and wasn’t very fluent in English. But we all just wanted to belong to this country and receive the rights due every citizen.”