LIBERTY TWP. — Some of the region’s newest American citizens recently filled a local high school gym with their families, friends, supporters and lots of beaming smiles.
There were 71 candidates for naturalization — representing 37 different birth countries — who took the “Oath of Allegiance” during a ceremony at Lakota East High School in Butler County’s Liberty Twp.
The ceremony was planned and hosted by the Lakota East Veteran’s Network, a student-led group promoting military awareness and among the large audience were East students, area state legislators, judges and Lakota school officials, including board of education members.
“Hosting this ceremony was an incredible opportunity for our students and staff to witness an event most people never get to see,” said Lakota East teacher and Veteran’s Network advisor Sally Barker, who hopes to make the event earlier this month an annual one for the school.
“Not only was this a monumental day for our new citizens and their families, it also touched the hearts of everyone watching in the gym,” said Barker.
According to Lakota officials, students played a role in every aspect of the program, which featured performances by Lakota East’s band and choir programs.
East’s American Sign Language students signed the National Anthem, while English language learners served as the welcoming crew for the citizenship candidates.
East senior Andrea Madding designed the program and East Veteran’s Network President Elliott Keith shared with his fellow classmates, staff and visitors the significance of the “Oath of Allegiance.”
And students from Lakota’s Hopewell Early Childhood School and Hopewell Junior School made congratulatory cards to share with their special guests, said district officials.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office provided their Honor Guard and Pipe and Drum Corp to lead the Presentation of Colors.
Lakota East Principal Rob Burnside opened the ceremony, sharing the personal significance of the event for him.
He told the crowd about his household, which includes a son and daughter who are both naturalized citizens from Russia and Ukraine, “has experienced the same joy as these families today.”
“That idea of a melting pot of people from different backgrounds and different places all pulling together to pursue the same dream is the foundation for our great nation, and it is that ideal that has brought us together today,” Burnside said.
The ceremony was administered by Beth Buchanan, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Ohio.
“Today, my new fellow citizens, you join people who are among the freest on the face of the earth,” Buchanan said.
“On behalf of all the judges for the United States District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, please accept our congratulations. This court is confident that you will prove worthy of the privilege of calling yourself a U.S. citizen.”
About the Author