RUTLAND TOWN — On Thursday, 22 people from 13 countries became U.S. citizens at a ceremony hosted at the Rutland Town School.

Countries represented at the ceremony, overseen by U.S. District Judge John Conroy, included Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria and Sweden.

Maler Edwelve, of Nigeria, said he’s been in the United States for six years. He said he plans to continue living in Vermont and working at the U.S. Post Office now that he has become a U.S. citizen.

For Edwelve, becoming a U.S. citizen is embracing America as the “Land of Opportunity.”

“There’s more opportunities that way (as a U.S. citizen). There are some jobs that you must be a U.S. citizen so that’s why,” he said.

Susan Watson, of Enosburg Falls, said she came to the U.S. from Canada 35 years ago to marry her husband, Douglas Watson. Susan and Douglas Watson have their own business in her town, the Watson Sign Company.

Watson said there was another citizenship right she was seeking.

“I wanted to vote. Is that a valid reason? I feel like an American. It’s time so might as well make it official,” she said.

Douglas Watson pointed out that his wife has Canadian and Swiss citizenship.

The new citizens were greeted on Thursday by Deborah Rodolfy, co-principal of the Rutland Town School. She said members of the school community considered it a “pleasure and honor” to host the “special day.”

“You worked long and hard to learn about your new country and you’re great role models for our students. They can see what people can accomplish when they put their hearts and minds to something that’s important to them,” Rodolfy said.

Conroy told the citizen applicants and their families that the ceremony was “in a larger sense, a celebration of our nation’s freedom.”

“Immigration and naturalized citizenship has always been critical to the success of our nation.” he said.

Conroy talked about several successful and accomplished people who had either immigrated to the U.S. or whose families had come to the United States.

“In a very fundamental way, we are all legal immigrants,” he said.

Not everyone who contributed to the event had achieved success at the level of a U.S. federal judge. Eighth grade student Maria Hogenkamp, who played the trumpet in the Rutland Town school band during Thursday’s Naturalization Ceremony said it was her first time playing for new citizens.

“It’s very exciting because we’re welcoming these people into our country so we should feel honored that we get to play for them as they become citizens of the U.S.,” she said.

Hogenkamp also read a poem, “Two Countries,” by Naomi Shihab, during the event.

On Thursday, Maria Gilca, an LNA at University of Vermont, went first in her family as she was sworn in. Gilca, of Moldova, was at the ceremony with her husband and two sons.

Her husband said he planned to get his U.S. citizenship next year.

Gilca said it had been “wonderful” having her sons with her as she became a U.S. citizen.

“It’s been great. I have two kids and a great job,” she said.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com

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