Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Iqra Noor didn't know until the night before that the naturalization
ceremony she planned with her classmates would feature an extra special
new citizen: her mother.
Iqra Noor, 11, left,
and her mother, Nasra Ahmed, embrace after Ahmed became a U.S. citizen
on Friday, April 6, at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland. Noor and
her sixth-grade classmates organized the first naturalization ceremony
at the middle school in about six years. Ahmed moved to Portland from
Somalia six years ago.
Noor, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Lyman Moore Middle School,
applauded alongside her classmates as 36 people from 19 countries took
the oath of U.S. citizenship on Friday, April 6, in the school gym.
The 38 new citizens came from Argentina, Cameroon, Canada, China, El
Salvador, Haiti, India, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Netherlands, Pakistan,
Philippines, Romania, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, United Kingdom and Vietnam.
After passing out red, white and blue carnations to new citizens,
Noor made her way through the crowd to her smiling mother, who was
waiting to pose for photos and celebrate with family.
"This is really cool because my mom has been studying for the test and she passed," Noor said. "I'm glad this was at my school."
Her mother, Nasra Ahmed, moved to Portland from Somalia six years
ago. She said the day was even more special because she took the oath at
the school where her daughter studies.
"I'm very happy," Ahmed said.
Noor said she helped her mother study for the 100 questions about
U.S. government and history that can be asked during the citizenship
test. They sat down each night for a quiz until her mother was ready for
"I didn't even know half of them," Noor said.
Though Noor didn't realize her mother's ceremony would be at the
school until the day before, she said her classmates were excited, if a
"Some of them were really surprised because they thought my mom was
already a citizen," she said. "Some of them were really happy for me and
Noor may have been the only student with a personal connection to
this particular ceremony, but many other students have witnessed the
process first-hand as their parents and grandparents became citizens,
said social studies teacher David Hilton, who helped students organize
"This is a wonderful connection to our sixth-grade focus on citizenship," Hilton said.
Students have been studying the history of immigration by reading
plays, cartoons and short stories. Before the ceremony, they created a
brightly colored hall of flags representing the new citizens' countries
of origin. They also made a small gift bag for each new citizen and
hosted a reception before the ceremony.
Social studies teacher Jon Roderick said students also will engage in
a hands-on project where they take on the identity of an immigrant, to
experience what it was like to go through Ellis Island in New York.
Roderick said the experience of organizing and watching a
naturalization ceremony is invaluable for students, because it helps
them connect classroom learning with the greater community.
"This is the kind of thing kids remember because it's real and it's special," he said.
Christina Matos, 12, said it was fun to watch the excitement of the new citizens during the ceremony.
"It meant a lot to me. That's the last thing I thought I'd be able to
do in school. It helps me learn what (new citizens) need to do and how
much they have to go through," she said. "... I think I'll remember this
for a long time."
During the ceremony, Principal Stephen Rogers recounted his own
experiences with immigration and citizenship. He said his grandfather
moved to the United States from Greece about 100 years ago at age 13,
and, more recently, his own wife became a citizen.
Rogers praised students for organizing the ceremony and said the experience makes learning more relevant and meaningful.
"We like to extend our studies beyond the classroom and into the real world," he said.