Citizenship ceremony, civics lessons combine in special Phoenix event

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PHOENIX – The city of Phoenix is home to at least 18 new American citizens after a special event Wednesday morning.

Gerda Weissmann Klein, founder of Citizenship Counts and Holocaust survivor, was the keynote speaker at the U.S. Naturalization Ceremony at Maryland School in Phoenix.

Such ceremonies are normally hosted at courthouses, but Wednesday’s event was a bit different.

Eighth grade students at Maryland have been engaged in a unit on citizenship and the naturalization ceremony was the culminating activity. The school, which has a relationship with Citizenship Counts, worked closely with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to coordinate the ceremony.

"This is a remarkable learning opportunity for all of our students," said school principal Ann Roberts in a news release.

Maryland, which is a K-8 school in Washington Elementary School District #6, is rich in diversity and a microcosm of the world around us. Students hail from 33 countries and speak 23 different languages. Many are refugees, who have only recently arrived in the United States.

There are several requirements that have to be met in order to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, including learning English and passing a test on American history and government. Applicants must also be at least 18 years old, have been a permanent resident for at least five years, and "demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution."