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Fourth of July rite of passage celebrates 58 new Americans   

  • Carmen Quiroz, 42, of Ecuador, stands during a naturalization ceremony held on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse on Wednesday. Quiroz and 57 other immigrants were sworn in as U.S. citizens at the ceremony. “I became part of the United States!” she said afterward. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Evelyn Harris sings the national anthem during a July 4, 2018, naturalization ceremony in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Laurie Millman from the Center for New Americans speaks at a naturalization ceremony held in Northampton on July 4, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz speaks at a naturalization ceremony held in Northampton on July 4, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Maya Lepcha, right, and Madhu Siwa of Bhutan swear an Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Northampton on Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Adriana Sarsynski of Colombia applauds during a naturalization ceremony on the Hampshire County Courthouse lawn on July 4, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Rena Owusu Agyapmaa, left, and her twin sister, Rene Owusu Agyapomaa, of Ghana, swear an Oath of Allegiance at the naturalization ceremony in Northampton on Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • U.S. Magistrate Katherine Robertson speaks at a naturalization ceremony on July 4, 2018 in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Entisar Alnaser of Iraq waits to accept her certificate of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony in Northampton on Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • From left to right: Adriana Sarsynski of Colombia, Victor Squatchmarillas of the Philippines, and Alex Dubovoy of Moldova, wait to accept their certificates of citizenship at a July 4, 2018, naturalization ceremony in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Emily Yunting Henry and her son, John Henry Kazar, 7, of the Philippines meet U.S. Magistrate Katherine Robertson on July 4, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Adriana Sarsynski of Colombia says the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on the Hamsphire County Courthouse Northampton lawn on July 4, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Jose Gabriel Tavares of Cape Verde shakes the hand of Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz after accepting his certificate of citizenship on July 4, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON



@dustyc123
Wednesday, July 04, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — It took Carmen Quiroz more than 18 difficult years to become a U.S. citizen after immigrating from Ecuador. But that process was worth the wait as she walked in front of a large crowd, miniature American flag in hand, to collect her certificate of citizenship on Wednesday.

“So excited,” Quiroz said when asked what her emotions were. “I became part of the United States!”

Quiroz was one of 58 immigrants who were sworn in as U.S. citizens in a downtown ceremony organized by the Center for New Americans. This year marked a decade since the center began organizing naturalization ceremonies in Northampton. Represented at this year’s ceremony were 33 different countries, from Mexico and Canada to Bangladesh and Bhutan.

“Getting to help people through the citizenship process reminds me every day of the gifts and talents immigrants bring to this country,” Tina Sanchez, the Center for New Americans’ citizenship associate, said prior to the event. “Each person has a powerful story and I feel lucky to share a little in each of their lives.”

One of those powerful stories is that of Adriana Sarsynski, 61, who came to the United States from Colombia five years ago.

“I came here in 2013 because I fell in love with an American guy,” she said with a beaming smile, nodding to her husband, Mike Sarsynski.

Sarsynski first received her green card after marrying in 2013, and has since become a certified health care interpreter, a profession that is in demand in places like hospitals.

“Becoming a U.S. citizen is special,” Laurie Millman, executive director of the Center for New Americans, told the crowd. “Becoming a U.S. citizen on the Fourth of July is extra special.”

An estimated 400 people turned up for the event on the grounds of the Hampshire County Courthouse, a larger turnout than in previous years.

“We hear a lot about the greatness of our country, and whether it’s great and if it’s still great,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said, looking out over those about to become citizens. “To me, this is the greatness of our country.”

The ceremony, as in previous years, featured local singer Evelyn Harris performing several patriotic songs. She drew loud applause when, during her version of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” she replaced the lyric “land of the pilgrims’ pride” with the line “land of the natives’ pride.”

The 58 local immigrants stood as they took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, as immigrants have done for some 220 years.

“That’s it, you’re now American citizens!” U.S. Magistrate Katherine Robertson, who presided over the ceremony, told the group. “Congratulations to all of you.”

As the ceremony ended, Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” blasted over the speakers and some began to dance as the bass-heavy music filled downtown Northampton.

Swaying to the music were Rene and Rena Owusu Agyapomaa, of Ghana. The 25-year-old twin sisters were all smiles, bouncing between conversations with reporters, their mother and two other sisters.

“So ecstatic!” were Rene’s only words when asked her feelings.

Those, too, were the emotions that Emily Henry, of the Philippines, after the ceremony. The 34-year-old was celebrating with her 7-year-old son, John Henry Kazar. She said that as she walked up to receive her certificate, she thought about all of those in America who had helped her get to where she is now.

“I said, ‘Thank God I’m now a part of this country, and I’m happy to have a new family,’” she said of her thoughts as she became a citizen. “Welcome to the land of the free.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.