RENO — A group of 14 children and adults stood with their hands raised and recited the Oath of Allegiance.
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic ... and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
After the cadance of the 130-word oath was uttered in a multi-purpose room at Hunsberger Elementary School in Reno, America gained 14 new citizens.
A burst of applause echoed and small American flags waived about by some of those who were newly certified, including Charles Choate of Ireland.
“I didn’t find out until I was in my 40s that I had a green card,” Choate said.
With an Irish-born mother and an American father, Choate, 53, realized after his green card had expired recently that he had to become a an official citizen to continue working in the United States. A roofer and truck driver by trade, Choate had recently been living at the mission, he said. Now, as an official citizen, he will be able to get a driver’s license, find work again and move close to family.
“I still have aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews living in Ireland,” he said. “I hope to visit soon.”
One benefit, he said, will be that he will get to vote for the first time. However, although he considers himself a Democrat, he isn’t thrilled about the upcoming elections.
“They’re all bad candidates,” Choate said.
Dhan Shrestha, 45, stood in line with his son and a couple of other relatives. Though Shrestha was born in America., he is a Nepalese national. Shrestha works as a bus boy at the Silvery Legacy in Reno and was eager to become an official citizen as he waited in line to sign his certificate before the ceremony began.
“This is a big country, there’s more opportunity here for my son,” Shrestha said.
As the room filled with Hunsberger students, Susie Hahl’s first-grade class piled in and began discussing the importance of the event.
“It means that they will follow the laws,” said student Cade Chatterley.
The other students chatted about the importance of picking up litter and treating each other with honesty and respect and being nice to one another.
“Someday they can know about the country,” said Abby Herschbach.
Hunsberger Assistant Principal Colleen Winter told the waiting new citizens, “It’s clear you have had a journey of determination that has brought you to this place today.”
She then read the poem “Anything is Possible” by Melissa Underwood.
This was the second year the school was chosen by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to host the event. The new citizens ranged from ages 11 to 53 and the Oath of Allegiance was administered by USCIS Reno Field Director Jennifer Swiergiel. The participants were from Australia, Ireland, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea and Thailand. Each one derived citizenship from a parent or parents.
“It’s an opportunity to share and celebrate with new citizens and take part in the process that we’re working to teach our students about,” Winter said.
“It’s heartening and so inspiring. It’s really a privilege to know that we’re a part of their journey for citizenship,” she added.