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The United States has been referred to as a “melting pot” due to the fusion of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities of its residents. This diversity has long been considered both a reflection of and a reason for the freedoms that U.S. citizens enjoy. HCPS Adult Education offers classes for those who desire to enhance and expedite the citizenship process, and recently the administration and staff at Jefferson Adult School celebrated their successful completers.
In a short yet powerful ceremony held in the Jefferson high school auditorium, almost 80 immigrants from countries all over the world celebrated the completion of the Citizenship program at Jefferson Adult and Community School. One of those students, Asnakech Hailegeorgis, a single mother of two boys, is from Ethiopia. Six years ago she came to the United States to find a better life for herself and her sons. In her country she was a teacher – here she works in a school lunchroom from 6:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., then goes to work in a daycare until 6:00 p.m., after which she hurries home, showers, makes dinner for herself and her sons, and then heads off to classes at Jefferson. She is proud of the progress she has made, but wants much more for herself, including improving her English skills and earning a teaching degree. She understands that more education is the key to reaching her goals and making a secure life for her children.
Asnakech, and the others celebrating their completed or soon-to-be completed citizenship, are excited about their accomplishments. For some, it is the final reward they have worked long and hard to obtain - but for others it is just the beginning. During the ceremony, a representative from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services District Office in Tampa, Community Relations Officer Kristen J. Smith, told the students that “with their new rights come several very important responsibilities, including obeying and respecting the laws of the United States; getting to know and help their neighbors; serving on a jury if called; continuing to improve their English language skills, and last but not least, exercising their right to vote.”
As proud families applauded and took photos with their cell phones, each of the smiling, happy students was given a chance to walk across the stage, receive a certificate of completion, and then enjoy hugs and handshakes from program teachers and Susan Valdes, School Board Chair. In addition, each student also received a tiny American flag to symbolize their new status. In an emotional moment, Ms. Smith told the audience that “we need you, and you need us. This nation became stronger the very minute each of you became a U. S. citizen.”
HCPS Adult Education Citizenship classes are offered in several locations across the county, and are available mornings, afternoons, or evenings. For more information about these classes, please call (813) 231-1951, or visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us and type “go adult-ed” in the search box. For information about programs at Jefferson Adult School, call (813) 356-1288 . For more information about the U.S. Citizenship process, visit http://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship.View Full Album