Clarkston, the most diverse square mile in America known as the “Ellis Island of the South”, offered the perfect setting last week for a local Welcoming Week event.
Welcoming Week was recognized from the week of September 15 – 24 across the nation. During this annual series of events, communities bring together immigrants, refugees and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone.
On Thursday, September 21, the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) in partnership with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and BB&T Bank hosted a Naturalization ceremony at Clarkston City Hall. The courtroom filled with a calm, collected group of 20 candidates, their friends and families. They came ready to commence their journey as naturalized citizens of the United States of America.
Amongst our newest citizens is Pilar Larson from the Dominican Republic, who wishes to become a chef. She is attending culinary arts school. Pilar used to visit as a child and the area where she stayed is where she met her now husband. Her favorite thing about America is the amazing food and the variety. She and her husband both enjoy BBQ and planned to celebrate her citizenship by eating lots of BBQ after the ceremony.
Adjo Agbovi-Hukadzi, new American citizen originally from Togo, shared that she is only here because she won the diversity “green card” lottery in Africa – an annual lottery which could end due to the RAISE Act. Abjo is most looking forward to the many opportunities she has before her: “I am enrolled in school for business… I would like to own my own business.”
The group of 20 new Americans represented 16 different countries, and each candidate stood to present his or her name and departing country. Once the candidates had recited the Oath of Allegiance – applause erupted!
Keynote speaker Tulu Kaifee, Mortgage Multicultural Manager and Senior Vice President of BB&T Bank, took the podium to address the new citizens. Originally from Pakistan, Tulu shared the importance of wealth and establishment as their journey begins. She inspired all by emphasizing the importance of community and small business and offered insight into her own personal journey to success as an American citizen.
Then Ted Terry, Mayor of Clarkston, spoke of the unity of Clarkston, its diversity and its safety: “We believe that the diversity of not just our cultures, and our religions and our languages, but also of our ideas, makes us a strong community.”
Following the closing of the ceremony and the distribution of the certificates, new American citizens had an opportunity to register to vote – their first official civic engagement! Many gathered with their families and some were on their way out of the door for continued celebration.
Congratulations to the 20 new American citizens, like Adjo and Pilar, who will add to the rich diversity of Georgia.
Pictured above: New American citizen Pilar Larson (with her husband, Bren Larson) is thankful for the safety, freedom and friendliness she has experienced in the United States.