Friday, November 2, 2018

Windham Middle School eighth graders learn about U.S. citizenship

A few members of the 8th grade meet with three new citizens
By Lorraine Glowczak

The House of Representatives has how many voting members? Which is NOT a Cabinet-level position? Who did the United States fight in World War II?

The above questions are examples of what is asked on a test to become a U.S. citizen. Have you taken the test that immigrants need to take to become a U.S. citizen? Mrs. Hodge’s eighth grade social studies class at Windham Middle School did and they did not pass. If these students wanted to become citizens of the United States, they would not have been able to join the land of the free and home of the brave. They would have had to wait and re-take the test again.

Whatever you do, don’t judge Mrs. Hodge’s eighth grade class before you have taken the test yourself – as a naturally born citizen of the U.S. whose first language is English. “What if you took this test and English was not the first language you spoke,” Mrs. Hodge asked the class when I visited them recently. a part of the required curriculum, Mrs. Hodge’s eighth grade class not only studied the process of becoming a U.S. citizen but attended the most recent Naturalization Ceremony that occurred at Windham High School on Friday morning, October 19.

There are at least four students in this class who have grandparents or parents who immigrated to the U.S., so they have some historical and close-up knowledge of what it takes to become an American. “My parents are from Poland,” explained student Alex Momet. “They met in an exchange program. The both worked at Point Sebago and liked it so much they decided to become citizens.”

When asked what the most challenging issue they faced, Momet stated it was learning to speak the language fluently.

There were also students whose grandparents immigrated from France and Italy as well as one student whose great grandmother escaped from a Jewish concentration camp during WWII and made America her home.

After learning about each other’s ancestry, studying the process of immigration and taking the required test to become an American citizen, the students had the opportunity to witness the Naturalization Ceremony. The middle school chorus sang the National Anthem and the middle school civil rights team helped to hand out the certificates to the new citizens.  

Just as important, if not more so, members of the eighth-grade class had the opportunity to ask a few questions of the new citizens after the ceremony. Sadie Vanselette was one of those students.
“We learned some interesting stories,” Vanselette said. “There was one story from a person from Thailand who has been living here for 25 years on a green card. When he first arrived here, there were different laws about how long one could be here on a green card, but those laws have changed. 

A couple of years ago, he went home to Thailand to visit his family and when he returned [to the U.S.], they almost didn’t let him come back in. Although he was legal, the laws had changed regarding those with green cards. But after doing some research, they [customs] realized he was legally able to return. He said it was this experience that made him decide to become a citizen.”
It should be noted that all permanent green card holder residents are tax residents but since they are not U.S. citizens, they do not have the right to vote. (For details regarding green card holders paying taxes on income earned, one should seek out an Immigration Law Attorney.)

The following are additional learning outcomes the students stated they had learned:
“I learned what people are willing to go through to become a citizen of this country. We have a lot to offer, such as freedom that most Countries do not have.” Liam Yates

“People are easily stereotyped. I saw people from different countries and religions congratulate each other. They didn’t let their differences stand in the way of becoming an American.” Devin O’Brien.
“I thought the new citizens were going to be young people. Although there were young people at the ceremony, I was surprised to see old people becoming citizens who want to end their life in peace.” Liam Yates

“I realized some became citizens to be with their families who were already here – while others were trying to get away from war torn countries and the U.S. was the best option for them.” Reagan McDougall

Ironically, after being told by those who had witnessed naturalization ceremonies that they might see tears of joy, the students were surprised that the ceremony they attended included nothing but celebration. “I saw much more happiness than I saw tears,” stated Vanselette.“It’s true,” Mrs. Hodge agreed. “There were a lot of happy new citizens who joined us two weeks ago. It was something we could easily understand. Afterall, we smile in the same language.”

For those who might wonder about the answers to the questions above, they are as follows: 1) There are 435 voting members in the House of Representatives. 2) While countries from Brazil to Bhutan do, the U.S. does not have a Secretary of Communications. 3) Japan, Germany and Italy were known as the Axis powers. At their peak during World War II, they ruled much of Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

These are only three answers to the questions on the official test that must be taken and passed by those who wish to become U.S. citizens. To see if you could pass the test as a naturally born U.S. citizen, take the test yourself by visiting the website at:

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