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Sewickley Academy middle-schoolers to witness citizenship in progress

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Carla Garfield said she still gets goosebumps when she thinks about the time she attended a citizenship ceremony on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

The Sewickley Academy middle school history teacher hopes her students will have a similar experience when they visit Pittsburgh's Immigration Services office on Friday to witness a Sewickley Academy teacher and a current academy family, along with 10 others, become United States citizens.

About 57 eighth-graders, as well as some academy faculty and administrators, will attend the ceremony.

“It's an event every American citizen should witness at least once in his or her life,” Garfield said.

Students will distribute American flags and lead the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem during Friday's ceremony, during which Sewickley Academy junior Maria Camila Arbelaez Solano; her sister Natalia, an eighth-grader; and their parents, Fernando Arbelaez and Maribel Solano, as well as middle school Spanish and French teacher Monica Lynn, will become American citizens.

The Arbelaez-Solano family moved to the United States from Columbia in 2007.

Lynn, who began teaching at the academy during the 2011-12 school year, was born in Spain and raised in France.

Garfield said being invited to witness the ceremony provided a perfect “teachable moment” for students who have just finished studying the Second Industrial Revolution and what attracted immigrants to the United States.

She said she thinks the students will treasure the experience, because they've recently done some of their own family research to learn about which generation immigrated and where they came from.

Garfield said she hopes the experience offers students an understanding of why people of other countries want to come to the United States.

“I hope they will observe the emotion and pride of the new citizens, which will help them to appreciate their own citizenship,” she said.

“I hope that they will understand how precious their citizenship is and cherish it all the more.”

Kristina Serafini is a photographer and staff writer for the Sewckley Herald. She can be reached at

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