CHEYENNE, Wyo. — For Peter Parolin, a Canadian and the current dean of the University of Wyoming’s Honors College, taking an oath of U.S. citizenship in front of dozens of high schoolers this morning was “an honor.”
Parolin was one of 14 Wyomingites who became naturalized at a ceremony in the East High School auditorium. In addition to the petitioners’ families and friends, nine East High social studies classes came to watch.
“It’s emotional to become an American citizen,” he said. “I see America as the place where education opens all kinds of doors and opportunities, and that’s why it’s so meaningful to have these students here and teachers who support you.”
Conducted by the United States District Court of Wyoming, the ceremony began with the East High ROTC performing the Posting of Colors and the school choir singing the national anthem.
Assistant U.S. attorney Jeremy Gross motioned for the naturalization of the petitioners, and Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming Kelly Rankin administered the oath of citizenship.
The 14 individuals hail from countries all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Slovakia and Burma, and currently live in Wyoming cities such as Jackson Hole, Big Horn Basin and Sheridan.
Once the oath was finished, the newly minted citizens recited the Pledge of Allegiance, received their Certificates of Naturalization and accepted congratulatory letters from the Wyoming Congressional Delegation and the League of Women Voters.
After the process was completed, some new citizens, including Parolin, spoke to the audience.
Nicola Kyle, who immigrated to Wyoming from the U.K., grew up in South Africa before moving to Scotland. Kyle said she is glad to be back in the “northern hemisphere.”
“I’ll pretty much say I’ve switched hemispheres,” she said during the ceremony.
Kyle also thanked the audience and judges for embracing her as a citizen.
“I want to say thank you for accepting us, me, into this country,” Kyle said. “I’m thankful for today; God has a purpose and I’m just glad I’m here.”
To end the program, Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal and U.S District Court Judge Alan Johnson gave closing remarks.
Freudenthal said her daughter lives in a Mediterranean country and ministers to refugees. After listening to her daughter’s experience, Freudenthal was reminded of the sacrifices people make when they immigrate to a new country.
“Listening to her talk about her experience … really reminded me to acknowledge the efforts that you’ve each taken to come here and choose America as your home,” she said.
Despite people’s linguistic, cultural and political backgrounds, Freudenthal said, every U.S citizen wants the same thing.
“We want a place where we belong, where we feel welcomed,” she said. “We want a place where we can trust in our freedom as a citizen.”
Johnson spoke to the audience about the responsibilities of being a citizen. With today’s polarized political and social climate, Johnson said during the ceremony that the “challenge of citizenship could never be greater than it is now.”
“Today marks the day where you start … the process of making those decisions about what kind of citizen [you] are going to be,” he said.