When I was a fourth grader, wearing my kelly-green Girl Scout uniform, I got to lead the pledge of allegiance for a naturalization ceremony. I was a shy kid, in front of what seemed to be a huge room of people in an imposing building downtown. Yet I don’t remember being scared at all. I was proud to be a part of something that seemed important.
I’ve given up wearing a sash with badges of my skills, though perhaps it is a look I could bring back into fashion. I hadn’t thought of my brush with citizenship in a lot of years, until a few weeks ago.
A student in my intro-to-composition class came up to talk to me, saying she’d have to miss the next session. The reason? She was getting naturalized, becoming a U.S. citizen after a process that had taken years. She had her appointment paper to prove it and excitedly showed it to me. The ceremony was to be held in the state capital, more than three hours away, and she worried she wouldn’t be back in time. I assured her that this was a good reason to miss class, congratulated her, and we worked out a plan for the content she’d be missing.
The next week, this student was unexpectedly in class. I worried that something had gone wrong, but one look at her radiant smile told me otherwise. Things had gone as planned, and she’d rushed back to make it in time for our course.
The path to citizenship is long, no matter where you come from or what your legal status is. It costs a lot of money and requires a lot of patience. Having observed the process and seeing my student go through it reminds me of how amazing some of my students are, as well as of the promise of America that I so often forget in the midst of my frustrations with reality.Return to Top