EL students attend naturalization ceremony


Madeline Rotarius

English learning students attended a naturalization ceremony for new citizens, like Peter Van Wordragen from the Netherlands. “I was very impressed with the ceremony,” Van Wordragen said. “A lot more people came out than I expected; I feel very fortunate.”

One third of American citizens would fail the U.S. citizenship test, whereas 97 percent of immigrants pass it.

On Oct. 10, English learning students took a field trip to the Macomb Intermediate School District to watch a naturalization ceremony for new citizens.

This ceremony is usually held at court houses, but on special occasions, it’s held at other venues so students can come and be a part of this process. It helps students become involved with the larger community. Students from Utica, Centerline, Stevenson, and Warren Mott attended the ceremony.

Some students were chosen as volunteers to seat people and help in others ways.

“My teacher asked me if I wanted to volunteer,” sophomore Muhammand Affeeb said. “I want to get rid of my shyness. I am glad I did it, and would do it again if I had the chance.”

Several students were chosen to sing the pledge of Allegiance at the end of the ceremony.

“I was asked to volunteer to sing, but I was nervous,” junior Baneen Hani said. “I wanted to sing it for America and everyone there.”

Utica Community Schools Superintendent Christine Johns also attended the ceremony.

“It was a truly moving ceremony that reflected the pride the participants have in becoming a U.S. citizen,” Johns said. “Our new Americans bring a culture and heritage that define our country and enrich our community.”

Many were impressed by the number of attendees at the event.

“Having people come together for this helps us reflect on what we have in this country,” Executive Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen said. “Those of us that were born here take it for granted.”

Peter Van Wordragen, who came to America from the Netherlands, was excited to finally become a citizen.

“I came to America 20 years ago to study business,” Van Wordragen said. “Over the years this became my home. I will always be traveling, but find my way back here.”

It was a big day for the students who attended and volunteered as well.

“I think this brings us back to reality, brings us back to what they went through,” Chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Thomas Brownrigg said. “A lot of people can not get here through all the rules. It shows us what they had to do. It’s always worthwhile watching these people become naturalized.”