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A Life Changing Ceremony

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A Life Changing Ceremony

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At 9 a.m., on November 14, 2018, Grand Junction High School made history. For the first time ever, the Naturalization Ceremony was held in Grand Junction High School’s auditorium.

This ceremony is typically held downtown at the Federal Courthouse each month. Instead Justin Whiteford, a social studies teacher, and Federal officials wanted to show students the lengthy and legal process that it takes to become a United States citizen.

“This is a process of hard work and determination,” United States Magistrate Judge, Gordon Gallagher, said during his speech.

Each candidate had to go through a rigorous process to earn citizenship. They go through extensive interviews where the candidates go deep into their past life, background checks about almost everyone in their family, and testing that most kids at GJHS could not even pass. It can take many years to earn citizenship, according to Debra Foster, member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

“These applicants go through stringent effort to make application and complete the process. It’s very emotional and it’s important for students to see how it works,” Foster said.

Immigration, whether done illegal or not, is one of the most controversial topics in the United States. However, on November 14 students were given the opportunity to see exactly how the process is conducted. Unbiased and nonpartisan, Judge Gallagher was able to change many lives at this ceremony.

“This is fully legal. It’s important for students to see each branch of government working together; executive, legislative, and judicial. It’s rare,” Gallagher said.

GJHS students, Pomona Elementary students, and the general public were given the opportunity to see this process and come to support the candidates.

“It took me 31 years to become a United States citizen,” Santiago Sanchez, a recently naturalized american citizen said.

Despite the many negative connotations immigration holds, these candidates still wanted to make a change and become  American citizens.

“I felt like it was my responsibility, and I was letting my parents down by not being able to vote. This is my way of making a difference,” Sanchez said.

This ceremony meant a great deal to these candidates.

“When you can take a topic that’s very controversial, sometimes very negative and often one-sided and turn it into something positive, everyone benefits,” Whiteford said. “Today was a win-win, both for the candidates, the now-Americans and for the school.”

According to Whiteford, this event was a success which GJHS plans to make an annual occurrence.

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A Life Changing Ceremony