Fifth-grade student Harper Skejerseth spoke softly to the crowd in her school’s gymnasium, but her message was loud and clear: Welcome.
Harper’s speech was part of a momentous occasion at Dunn World School. She and the rest of the fifth- grade class recently hosted a naturalization ceremony for 32 new U.S. citizens from 20 countries.
For the students, the ceremony marked the end a unit of inquiry on how migration changes people and places. For the 32 new citizens, it marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter.
“I welcome you as neighbors, friends and family,” Harper said, reading from a winning essay she wrote, selected by school officials to be read at the ceremony. “I welcome you as new citizens of this country, and I welcome your children and their children.”
After the ceremony, Harper said she “just tried to write from the heart,” and added that her favorite part of the ceremony was the singing. Students opened the ceremony by performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” after the school’s color guard presented the United States flag.
Andy Lambrecht, Denver field officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, acknowledged the hard work and sacrifices the new citizens had made in the years leading up to that day. He also honored each individual country of origin represented at the ceremony before he administered the Oath of Allegiance, which cemented the 32 candidates’ status as new U.S. citizens.
Principal Deborah Ellis also spoke to the crowd and welcomed the new citizens, saying the experience was also meaningful for students.
“As an international baccalaureate school, we are committed to creating a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” she said.
This was the 15th year Dunn has hosted the ceremony.
Students presented each new citizen with a miniature American flag after they took the Oath before serenading them with an enthusiastic rendition of “This Land is Your Land.”