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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2013

Kateri students witness 26 residents become new American citizens


A sea of Cardinal red greeted the 26 new U.S. citizens who participated in today’s naturalization ceremony held at Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School in Oregon.

The event provided hundreds of St. Kateri Catholic Academy students a chance to observe and participate in the citizenship process. The 26 area residents took the oath of citizenship during the ceremony.

“They’ve all sacrificed so much and overcome so many challenges to get to this point,” Magistrate Judge James R. Knepp told students assembled in the school’s auditorium. “I hope you appreciate how special this is for all of us here.”

There were many things that made the day’s ceremony special. Among the new citizens was Mariana Y Steffan, an elementary and middle school teacher at the academy. Ms. Steffan, 50, of Russia also served as the event’s keynote speaker.

“If 20 years ago someone told me that I would be living in the U.S.A., in the state of Ohio, teaching American children music, I would probably laugh first and then wonder why in the world would I want to leave Russia,” Ms. Steffan said.

But, economic and political turmoil in Russia prompted her to join her sister, who was an exchange student in the U.S. at the time.

The lesson she learned from the experience is to appreciate the people in your life and the opportunities that come your way, she told the students and other citizens.

“Embrace the opportunity,” she said. “Embrace the challenge. Embrace the change. Because at the end of the day, it is up to us if our journey will be exciting, meaningful, and filled with special moments like this one.”

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