Eighth graders Meghan Cox, left, and Andrea Myers were selected to read their winning essays during the naturalization ceremony at Sagamore Hill, Sept. 18.
Angelina Pavlovic and Shannon Walsh, who received Honorable Mention in the essay contest, were asked to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Kaylee Ochoa presents an American flag to new citizen Lara Bousleiman.
The Oyster Bay Chamber Singers and the Wind Ensemble performed at the ceremony.
OBHS Students Experience Citizenship First-Hand
In a location steeped in American history, Oyster Bay High School eighth graders had the unique opportunity to take part in a naturalization ceremony at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site where they witnessed 50 immigrants from various countries around the world fulfill their dream of becoming U.S. citizens.
The prideful ceremony, held Sept. 18 in celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, opened with the Tara Pipe and Drum band that led a processional of 10 federal judges onto a dais set up inside a tent on the Sagamore Hill lawn. In the audience, were the candidates for citizenship, their family and friends, 125 eighth graders and staff from Oyster Bay High School and law students and staff from St. John’s Law School.
In her opening remarks, Master of Ceremonies Hon. A. Kathleen Tomlinson, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Eastern District of New York, acknowledged Dr. Laura Seinfeld, superintendent of Oyster Bay East Norwich Central Schools, who was part of the dais, district and building administrators, the 125 eighth graders, and staff for their support and help with coordinating the program.
“The fact that we have been engaged with the eighth graders from Oyster Bay and the law students from St. John’s is no coincidence,” Hon. Tomlinson said, addressing the crowd. “Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor made it her mission after leaving the bench to find new means to educate children about the three branches of government. With the assistance of others, she helped develop www.icivics.org. almost 10 years ago. Justice O’Connor observed, ‘we don’t learn civics and how to be involved genetically, we have to learn it every generation. I wanted to teach young people in America how to be part of the governmental structure so they can decide what problems to tackle and how to solve them. We need to teach young people that they are going to grow up and be in charge.’ Justice O’Connor’s legacy is at work here today.”
Following her remarks, the Oyster Bay High School Chamber Singers performed the National Anthem, under the direction of Oyster Bay High School music teacher Meagan Finnerty.
Two eighth- grade students, Meghan Cox and Andrea Myers, who were winners of a class-wide essay contest, titled, “An Open Letter to Our New Citizens,” were invited to the podium to read their winning pieces, which expressed the freedoms and rights that the new citizens will be able to enjoy in America. Two more students, Angelina Pavlovic and Shannon Walsh, who received Honorable Mention in the essay contest, were asked to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
As the candidates for citizenship were administered the Oath of Allegiance and handed their certificates, members of the eighth-grade class presented them with a small American flag as a token of their new citizenship. After moving remarks from new citizen, Lara Bousleiman, and closing remarks from Hon. Tomlinson, the Oyster Bay High School Wind Ensemble, directed by Oyster Bay High School music teacher Mathew Sisia, closed the ceremony with a rendition of “Ode to Joy.”
The new citizens had the opportunity to exercise their new freedoms by registering to vote. The students and new citizens also took guided tours of Theodore Roosevelt’s home and took formal photographs outside of the home.
Joseph Pesqueira, K-12 social studies supervisor for the Oyster Bay East Norwich School District, said the event “provided a perfect opportunity to connect what the students had learned in seventh grade with what they will learn in eighth grade this year through relevant and meaningful real-life experience. Our seventh graders learn about the Constitution in great detail. Eighth graders will learn about immigration and the push and pull factors that brought immigrants to this country in droves during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”