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Lakota East Welcomes 71 New Citizens at Naturalization Ceremony

Lakota East Welcomes 71 New Citizens at Naturalization Ceremony

The Lakota community welcomed America’s newest citizens at the region’s most recent Naturalization Ceremony hosted by Lakota East High School on March 14. 

Before a gymnasium packed with students, teachers, administrators, local and state dignitaries, and representatives of the United States District Court Southern District of Ohio, 71 candidates for naturalization - representing 37 different birth countries - took the “Oath of Allegiance.” The ceremony was planned and hosted by the Lakota East Veteran’s Network, a student-led group promoting military awareness. 

“Hosting this ceremony was an incredible opportunity for our students and staff to witness an event most people never get to see,” said Lakota East teacher and Veteran’s Network advisor Sally Barker, who hopes to make Tuesday’s event an annual one. “Not only was this a monumental day for our new citizens and their families, it also touched the hearts of everyone watching in the gym.”

Among all the positive feedback she and others on the planning committee have received included one teacher sharing that her student was so moved by the event that he is now writing his research paper about naturalization ceremonies. Innovation specialist Michelle Wilkerson heard from one family that it was so well orchestrated that they would keep this memory for a lifetime. 

Students played a role in every aspect of the program, which featured performances by Lakota East’s band and choir programs. East’s American Sign Language students signed the National Anthem, while English language learners served as the welcoming crew for the candidates. East senior Andrea Madding designed the program and East Veteran’s Network President Elliott Keith shared with his fellow classmates, staff and visitors the significance of the “Oath of Allegiance.” Even students from Hopewell ECS and Hopewell Junior made congratulatory cards to share with their special guests. 

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office provided their Honor Guard and Pipe and Drum Corp to lead the Presentation of Colors. Lakota East Principal Rob Burnside opened the ceremony, sharing the personal significance of the event for him. He explained that his household, which includes a son and daughter who are both naturalized citizens from Russia and Ukraine, “has experienced the same joy as these families today.” 

“That ideal of a melting pot of people from different backgrounds and different places all pulling together to pursue the same dream is the foundation for our great nation, and it is that ideal that has brought us together today,” Burnside said. 

Interim Superintendent Robb Vogelmann’s closing remarks reflected on Lakota as a microcosm of our diverse nation, sharing that 40 percent of Lakota students come from a multicultural background (up from 25 percent 10 years ago). Furthermore, Lakota celebrates more than 1,600 English language learners and 12 percent of students who speak a language different than English at home. Lakota students represent about 100 different birth countries and speak 60 different languages at home, he shared. 

“Over my 25 years here at Lakota, I have been lucky enough to witness the incredible diversity that defines this great school district. It is part of who we are. We celebrate it, we embrace it and we are better off because of it. ” Vogelmann said. “You’d be hard pressed to find a school district more representative of the group before you today.”

The ceremony was administered by the Honorable Beth Buchanan, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Ohio. 

“Today, my new fellow citizens, you join people who are among the freest on the face of the earth,” Buchanan said. “On behalf of all the judges for the United States District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, please accept our congratulations. This court is confident that you will prove worthy of the privilege of calling yourself a U.S. citizen.” 

Buchanan recognized the candidates, asking them to stand when they heard the name of their home country, a list that spanned 37 different countries. 

View the photo gallery from the Naturalization Ceremony on Lakota’s Facebook page.

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