East student gives keynote for address for naturalization service

The crowd on Friday, January 1st sounded like a stampede as they packed Biester Auditorium. In an unusual case, and for the first time ever at Glenbard East, students taking American-based social studies classes were getting the opportunity to witness the final step of the naturalization process and see immigrants become fully naturalized citizens. 

Consisting of 50 people from over 19 different countries, students unfamiliar with this process were able to begin to glimpse the idea of what it means to have to “become” an American. Not only did they see it exemplified through the ceremony, they also got to hear it from one of their fellow classmates.

Among quick other speeches, one of the most impactful speeches of the day was given by Jenicel Carmona, a senior at East. When she found out that she had been selected, she was kind of nervous, stating “It’s unusual for a speech of this kind to be given by a student.” 

While an unusual selection of an unusual ceremony, Jen presents herself as the perfect candidate, as president of the National Honors Society. Having immigrated to America from the Philippines, she was familiar with the process of naturalization, having seen her mother become a citizen as well.

“When Mr. Jaffe asked me to give this speech, he didn’t know I was a naturalized citizen,”  she said.

She discussed her connection to the event while giving her speech, after greeting and thanking the new citizens there for their hard work and service. Talking about her family story, she discussed coming to Chicago as a young girl from the Philippines with her parents, brother, and sister, completely new and unfamiliar with this strange country. Her brother even convinced her that there would be penguins all over Chicago, and she was quite disappointed when she got here. 

Her family was proud of the hard work she had done, and how it went. 

“Mom made me listen to the audio. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I felt like I could have done better,” she said.

 She said she felt she knew what to say in this vital moment because of how she related to the new citizens. 

“I thought of the audience and directing my speech at the people becoming citizens,” she said. “The immigrant experience and process- the desire consistent among all of us to improve our lives, and doing it by becoming an American– I think it puts the American dream in a new light. It’s not just about monetary gain like we tend to think- the dream becomes different from the immigrant perspective”

Her thoughtful speech was able to grab the attention of many in Biester, especially when she made a shout out to a certain history teacher in the room. 

“The subject matter related to the idea of a city on a hill,” she explained when asked about this clear Mr. Pietsch reference that made his section of the auditorium go wild. “I was in Mr. Pietsch’s AP US History class, and I know his class would see it and get the reference, even if it wasn’t very relevant to everyone.” 

While this one of a kind event has no plans to occur again in the future, it is an experience that those who saw it will likely not soon forget.