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A shared civics lesson

Naturalization ceremony includes essays from middle-schoolers on being American

As Shaw Middle School’s choir and band performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” Tuesday morning, Scotland-born Norman Lewis sang along with pride, moments before becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The middle school is the first in Spokane to host a U.S. District Court naturalization ceremony, and the first local school since 1998. Shaw’s principal agreed to host the event earlier this year, immediately recognizing it as an opportunity for a civics lesson and an opening for her students to share the pride of participating in a federal custom.

Lewis, for one, appreciated the setting.

“It provided the people going through the ceremony a taste of American schools tradition,” said Lewis, one of 57 people sworn in by U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno, who brought her court proceeding to the school’s gymnasium.

On Tuesday morning, the 600-plus students filled the bleachers. Most of them dressed with respect for the occasion, said Principal Chris Lynch. The students “behaved beautifully,” she said. “They made me very proud as a principal.”

The soon-to-be citizens sat on folding chairs in the middle of the gym.

The citizen oath and swearing in took place after Shaw’s student band and choir performed. Fifty-seven students who had been selected for the best essays titled “What it means to be an American” shook the newly naturalized citizens’ hands and passed them miniature American flags.

Shaw student Maria Golubenko wrote based on experience – her family emigrated from Russia when she was 1  1/2 years old. “Being an American citizen is important because you get better education, freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” she wrote. Education “is a gift because in other countries kids can’t go to school.”

Jacki Craipo, another student, wrote: “To be an American citizen is to be allowed all the rights in the Constitution … but also to take on the responsibility of upholding and obeying it, and any laws made or sustained by the American government.”

Lewis, a WSU science professor, considers himself fortunate. He emigrated from Scotland in 1985.

“We’ve had a wonderful time here,” he said. “We’ve been able to do research on plant biology. The better opportunities are here. It’s a great privilege to be a citizen in this country.”

Laura Zuniga, who moved here 10 years ago from Mexico, was also naturalized Tuesday. She fell in love with America.

“I like (that) everybody’s free. No one can say, ‘No you can’t.’ And I like (that) America takes care of everybody, young and old.”

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