PORTLAND — 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.
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 the test.
“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 bit surprised.
“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 my mom.”
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 the event.
“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.
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.
Perinna Mukomoi, left, and Yan Yan Mai take their oath of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony held Friday, April 6, at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland.
Liliana Teodorescu, left, and her sister, Corina Teodorescu, pose for a photo after Liliana received her certificate of U.S. citizenship during a ceremony Friday, April 6, at Lyman Moore Middle School. Liliana moved to Portland from Romania.