Historic Naturalization Ceremony at BHS a Success

By Danni Dunlop

Roberto Enrique Aguado, from Peru, was one of the 100 immigrants from 45 different countries who were naturalized last Friday morning at Branford High School.

Aguado is disabled and came to America for a better life, he was raised here as a child and currently lives in East Hartford, CT.

A couple of his favorite things about America is the Statue of Liberty located in New York City and the Pledge of Allegiance.

The historic ceremony with Aguado and 99 others took place during the school day Friday. BHS students, family members of the new citizens and others filled the auditorium for the event. BHS is the first high school in Connecticut to ever host something like this.

Ethan Enzer, an immigration official who emceed the event, said before the ceremony that Branford High School was chosen for the event as a way to connect real life issues of citizenship to the school curriculum.

“It would be a good opportunity for students to see the process of our nation,” he said. “And [BHS is] the only school to do so, and we want to welcome those to our nation and show them our values.”

BHS Principal, Lee Panagoulias is a son of an immigrant from Greece and he says that “It’s a very unique opportunity for some of our students to see a process that’s so important to our nation.”

The guest speakers at the ceremony included Nancy Charest, East Shore Region Adult Continuing Education (ERACE) citizenship educator; Charles S. Haight Jr., Senior United States District of Connecticut Judge; Erika Taylor, Immigration Services Officer; Hamlet Hernandez, Superintendent of Branford Public Schools and Enzer, Section Chief of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Enzer started off the ceremony with speaking about what America is all about.

“United States is a nation of immigrants,” Enzer said.  “In this country you can be anything that you aspire to be.”

Charest then described this day to be an important celebration of democracy.

“This is a life changing event for those who are about to become citizens of the United States of America,” Charest said.  “Each of you (The 100 immigrants) has your own story of immigration to tell.”

The BHS Music Makers then did the singing of the National Anthem after Charests’ speech.

The honorable Judge Haight described this occasion to not be an assembly, but a hearing before a court and particularly welcomed the students who go to BHS and who were at the event that morning.

“It’s one thing to go to classes and read about history,” he said.  “History is being made right before your eyes.”

As Taylor named off all of the 45 countries that the 100 new citizens originally came from, they each stood up as they heard the name of their original country so that they therefore all stand as one.

When Hernandez spoke, he focused on how precious the gift of citizenship really is. In fact, his parents even took the citizenship test.

Also at this ceremony, U.S Senator, Richard Blumenthal was present whose father came to America in 1935.

Blumenthal talked about how usually in court there is a win or loss.  But on this day there was no losing, just winning.

“The nation is a winner today,” he stated.  “The citizens are winners.”

The ceremony came to a close when each of the new citizens got called up one by one to receive their certificates of naturalization.

Along with the certificate of naturalization, they all received small American flags to show that they are official citizens of the United States.

Joshua Alex contributed to this report.

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