Bahija Gouriny, formerly of Morocco, shakes hands with Waterville Primary School third grader Aidan Funk after receiving her certificate of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony at the Browning Care Center in Waterville.
Eating ice cream, watching fireworks on the 4th of July, spending time with family and friends, and dreaming of the day when she’ll be old enough to do the “Polar Bear plunge” with her dad and uncle are what makes living in America so special, Lizzie Freytag, 8, of Waterville, told 16 immigrants preparing to take their oath of citizenship Wednesday.
Lizzie, a third grader at Waterville Primary School, served as the keynote speaker during a naturalization ceremony held at Browning Care Center in Waterville.
“I really like living in Waterville because even though it keeps growing, it’s still a small town,” she told the new citizens sitting in front of her. “I hope all of today’s inductees enjoy creating traditions and memories like I have.”
More than 120 people attended the ceremony, which was primarily run by third graders from Waterville. The Anthony Wayne Junior High Band performed “God Bless America” during the event.
PHOTO GALLERY: Naturalization ceremony in Waterville
Aidan Funk, also a third grader from Waterville Primary, served as the Town Crier. He pounded a wooden gavel several times to signal the arrival of U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick, who presided over the event. Young Funk, 8, arrived early so that Judge Helmick could teach him the correct way to use the gavel and the bell.
“It’s three beats and then one more,” said Aidan, explaining the correct way to use the gavel. “I was ready for trying the bell and saying Hear ye, Hear ye.”
Third graders from Waterville Primary School have been preparing for the naturalization ceremony since the fall, said recently retired third-grade teacher Pollie Miller. The students have been studying Waterville history and immigration in classes, Mrs. Miller said.
Last fall, the students researched their cultural roots and shared that information with their classmates during a special event dubbed “Culture Day,” said Mrs. Miller, whose great, great, great, great-grandfather founded Waterville.
Members of the Anthony Wayne Junior High School Band perform ‘God Bless America’ during the naturalization ceremony Wednesday at the Browning Care Center in Waterville.
Aidan Funk said participating in the naturalization ceremony, learning about immigration, and his own cultural history gave him a better appreciation for being an American.
“They were here to become new citizens,” he said. “I became a citizen by being born here.”
Judge Helmick told the new citizens that they are important to the nation’s success because they bring new ideas, perspectives, skills, and culture to America.
“Citizenship is a defining moment,” Judge Helmick said. “The renewal of our country depends on you. You are our future.”
He urged the new citizens to exercise their new rights by voting, joining boards and committees, and serving on jury duty.
Basmeen Durrani of Pakistan, who took the oath Wednesday, said there are many things she’d like to do now that she is a citizen.
“Vote — I like that,” Mrs. Durrani, 30, said.
Other third graders who participated in Wednesday’s naturalization ceremony were Kate Schraeger, 9, and Alex Shaffer, 8, who led the audience in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
The four third graders also assisted Judge Helmick as he passed out citizenship certificates. The students served as special dignitaries who shook hands with and congratulated each new citizen as they received their certificates.
“It’s such an important event,” Kate said. “You get to welcome people to the United States.”
The new Americans and their native countries are:
Canada: Crystal Helena Carroll
India: Daljit Kaur, Hitesh Majijibhai Patel, Sanjiv Padmanath Wani
Jordan: Yasmin Bseiso, Zain Bseiso
Mexico: Azucena Cuevas
Morocco: Bahija Gouriny
Nigeria: Anne Uche Iwelunmor, Paul Tobi Makinde
Pakistan: Basmeen Durrani
Russia: Elena Vladmirovna Korb, Valentina Igorevna Vasenina
South Korea: Euisoo Hwang
Syria: Firas Habaj
Gambia: Awa Alice Conteh
Contact Federico Martinez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.
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