Southwest Charter School students host naturalization event

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - Inna Wilson (left) watches as her son, Alexander Wilson, waves an American flag to celebrate her new citizenship.Inna Wilson could hardly contain her excitement as she stepped onstage to receive her certificate as a new American citizen.

“I’m so happy right now,” she said. “I’m born to be here.”

Wilson, 42 and a native of Ukraine, was one of 10 people from 10 different countries who received their citizenship March 12 during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony at Southwest Charter School.

The ceremony was the culmination of a trimester-long lesson plan for the seventh- and eighth-grade students at the K-8 school in Southwest Portland.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN - New citizens read the Oath of Allegiance during a nationalization ceremony at Southwest Charter School.“Our students have learned a little bit this past trimester about the challenging topic of immigration,” school director Anne Gurnee told the new citizens. “However, you all have lived it.”

During the ceremony, the school’s seventh-graders sang the national anthem and the new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance and said the Pledge of Allegiance together before walking onstage individually to receive their certificates.

Ceremony participants hailed from India, Fiji, Spain, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Ukraine, Guatemala, Romania and Brazil.

The students decorated the auditorium with flags from each participant’s home country and supplied food for a potluck — complete with an American flag cake for dessert. After the ceremony, several students, including seventh-grader Becca Gurnee and eighth-grader William Britton, interviewed the new citizens to learn their stories.

“It’s been interesting to know the hardships that people go through to gain a lifestyle that we’ve been living our entire lives,” William said.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KELSEY OHALLORAN - Inna Wilson (left) receives her certificate of citizenship from Michael Hickman, Portland Field Office director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Caption #6: Inna Wilson listens as Southwest Charter School students sing the national anthem.Students read books about immigration and researched the home countries of the participants. Prior to this trimester, Becca said, “I’ve not really heard about immigration very often, or about things that happen to people, or about how hard they work to come here and how many risks they take.

“America is totally the dream for some people from countries that don’t have the same rights and privileges as we do,” she said.

Wilson, who left Ukraine 13 years ago, has since gotten married and had a son in the United States. She now lives in Milwaukie.

“I’m safe,” she said. “My kids are safe.”

Contact Kelsey O’Halloran at 503-636-1281 ext. 101 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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