The crowd begins to sing the national anthem, and the hum of 831 new citizens softly fills the space between the four walls.
There are two young boys in matching emerald tuxedo jackets, light bouncing from one stitch of embroidery to the other.
Antsy children squirm in their seats while rhythmically kicking their legs back and forth.
Emotions vary from giddy anticipation to stoic patience.
Across the room, hundreds of people sit together to share a common experience. Although each one’s past and path to this place has been unique, today they all have one thing in common: they will become United States citizens.
The judge conducting the naturalization ceremony begins by saying she will read each country of origin represented in the audience today. She asks the crowd of new citizens to please stand up as she reads their country and to remain standing until she has finished. Heads pop up slowly at first, and then more quickly and in larger groups until 91 countries later all 831 new citizens remain standing, shoulder to shoulder.
Mutiatu is among them, beaming with pride.
Together, they recite the oath of allegiance, making their citizenship official.
The judge tells the crowd, “Don’t forget your native language, how to cook your native dishes, your songs, and dances. Please don’t forget these things.” She explains that it’s these things that make the United States what it is.
When the ceremony concludes, Mutiatu makes her way to the stage where others have gathered. With her daughter by her side, they climb the stairs and smile, each with a small American flag in their hands.
Her citizenship teacher Deb is there, taking photos of Mutiatu on stage. An unfamiliar woman approaches and introduces herself as Martha, Mutiatu’s teacher. Her other teacher. It turns out that not only was Mutiatu taking classes at Neighborhood House, she was also taking classes at Learning in Style in Minneapolis.
Martha later tells me that Mutiatu has been taking citizenship and English classes with her since 2018. “Mutiatu is someone special—so effervescent and hardworking—a privilege to know,” she says.
Mutiatu rejoins the group and hugs her teachers. “Thank you, thank you so much,” she smiles. “You took her from here to here,” Mutiatu’s husband says as he gestures from the ground toward the ceiling.
It’s been a long journey. Her hard work and dedication, along with the help of her supportive family and instructors, have led her to United States citizenship. She’s already registered and ready to vote.
So what’s next for Mutiatu? “I’m studying English because I’m looking for a good job. With better English I’ll have a better job and my life will change.”
Knowing Mutiatu, she won’t stop until she makes it happen.
Read back on Mutiatu’s journey taking citizenship classes and passing the citizenship test.
Learn more about the path to citizenship and how Neighborhood House helps students going through the process.