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Lyman Moore Naturalization Ceremony Is Learning Opportunity

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Lyman Moore Naturalization Ceremony Is Learning Opportunity
Posted on 04/07/2016
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On April 8, 58 new U.S. citizens will be sworn in at Lyman Moore Middle School and students there will get a firsthand lesson on what it means to be an American.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will hold a special naturalization ceremony at the school, starting at 10 a.m. that day.

The event will be a learning opportunity for the school’s students, who will get a chance to interview the prospective new citizens at a 9 a.m. welcoming event in the school’s cafeteria, prior to the official ceremony. Students also will participate in the ceremony in a variety of ways.

“Lyman Moore has a long history of hosting naturalization ceremonies,” said David Hilton, sixth-grade social studies teacher. “The ceremony is deeply embedded in an integrated unit of study that includes historical information (about Ellis and Angel Islands); family history (exploring identity, family trees, stories, names and artifacts); and a discussion of modern immigration policy. We're midway through the unit now.”

To prepare for the ceremony, Hilton said, students have been memorizing the Emma Lazarus' poem, “The New Colossus,” which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty. Many Americans are familiar with the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Four students will recite the poem at the ceremony in honor of the guests, Hilton said. Students also are researching the countries of origin of the new citizens, in order to ask meaningful questions during the interview hour before the ceremony officially begins. In addition, students have been painting lobster buoys to represent the countries of the new citizens. Hilton said they were inspired by an art exhibit of lobster buoys celebrating new Mainers that was hung on a fence outside the Maine Historical Society this winter.

Students also can learn from speakers at the ceremony, Hilton said. Keynote speakers will include Ali Al Mshakheel, formerly a well-known Iraqi journalist who now works as a parent community specialist for the Portland Public Schools’ Multilingual & Multicultural Center. Two Deering High school seniors, Salim Salim and Maryan Isack, also will speak. “Each one has inspiring stories about fitting in without giving up who you really are,” Hilton said.

Lyman Moore students also will participate in the ceremony by performing the National Anthem, other special musical selections and leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

Hilton noted that Lyman Moore is a highly integrated school with a sizable immigrant population. He said that students “are deeply considering the questions, ‘How do ancestry and immigration help shape our identities?’ and ‘Who are we as a nation?’”

“Our work in the unit and our hosting the ceremony will help students deepen their answers to those questions as they look closely at what it means to be American and how both internal and external factors make us who we are,” Hilton said. “Hosting the ceremony brings us together as a community. It also inspires our students to learn about citizenship and the value of active citizenship in adult life.”

The students are already thinking about what it means to be an American. Here are observations from some sixth-graders in Hilton’s and teacher Regina Morton's social studies classes:

Rozhan Sabeti: “When I think about being American, I think about my parents giving me the chance to have a better life than they had and having the opportunity to be educated. There are some places in the world that don't let girls go to college or people can't have an education because of their religion or choice of life. Also I think about bombs, murder and some death. But I mostly think that being an American will give you the chance of living a free life, not a life that you’re scared of but a life that you will enjoy and you know that there’s a new adventure that awaits.”

Rahmat Ali: “What do I think it means to be an American? I think you need to be proud, you need to be brave, you need to be strong and you need to be thoughtful. When you become an American citizen, if it was the minute you were born or at a ceremony, you become part of a new world. A world where people have rights, a world where anyone can vote, a world that we are all equal. To be part of the world you need to be proud, proud of where you family comes from, proud of being you – no matter who you are. You need to be brave so you can stand up for what you believe in. You need to be strong – even though this is a new world, remember we have a long way to go before we are perfect. Most of all, you need to be thoughtful. You need to be thinking of others and their values.”

Meghan Frank: “Americans have pride in our country and the USA spirit. We are free to be who we want to be and we are free to do what we want. To be an American you may not be from America, you may have immigrated for a better life, but that is what makes America, America. Americans don't always like having other people come into our country and they may disrespect others but that is just what happens. There are good things and there are bad things, but that is what being an American is all about.”