Park Creek kindergarten teacher Yormary Dickinson was one of 166 people to become a citizen at a naturalization ceremony in August. But when she returned to Dalton as a new citizen of the United States, the focus was all on her.
- Park Creek Principal Phil Jones congratulates teacher Yormary Dickinson on becoming a United States citizen.
The school surprised Dickinson with a celebration of her citizenship when she returned to work. The entire school gathered in the gym to learn about what it means to be a citizen.
“They had the flag right in the middle of the gym, and our principal started talking about what it means to pledge allegiance to the flag,” Dickinson said, remembering the event. “He said that some people are residents and some people are citizens.”
Park Creek Principal Phil Jones said this event was an important way to both honor Dickinson and educate students about their country and about democracy.
“It’s a lesson in the democratic process and democracy itself for our children,” Jones said. “It was important to model for our children the democratic process. The citizenship process sends a very, very strong message of what our country is all about.”
The celebration ended with Dickinson leading the group in the pledge of allegiance. She was also presented with Park Creek’s American flag — the flag that has flown over the school since the day it was built.
“It meant a lot to me that all of the kids that I’ve taught were there. It wasn’t just my class that I have right now,” Dickinson said. “This is my eighth year teaching, so all of my kids were there. And now, they see me in the hallway and they know about that event.”
Dickinson came to the United States from Colombia when she was 17 years old. She began studying at Southern Adventist University on a student visa and later attained residency status in the states. After five years as a resident, she was allowed to apply for citizenship — a process that required a lot of paperwork, an interview and a test.
Jones said he is excited to have Dickinson as a resource for parents and students at his school who may want to pursue the citizenship process.
And Dickinson said students and teachers already ask her about her experience. She cherishes the opportunity to share her story and encourage others to learn more about their country and the possibly of pursuing citizenship themselves.
“I like to talk to the parents, kids and teachers about it,” Dickinson said. “I feel that now that I’ve gone through the process, I can tell them about it and encourage them.”
— MIMI ENSLEY, Dalton Public Schools contributor