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BC celebrates its immigrant history by hosting naturalization ceremony

Posted by Your Town  March 13, 2013 04:13 PM

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In honor of Boston College’s 150-year anniversary, the school will host a naturalization ceremony next week to celebrate the university’s history of educating the immigrant population, university officials announced in a statement.

One hundred immigrants, including BC student Chuda Rijal from Bhutan, will participate in the March 21 ceremony presided by US District Court Justice and BC alumnus George A. O’Toole Jr.

The ceremony is open to the public, and will be held in the Robsham Theater at 3 p.m., the statement said. Several BC musical groups and the BC ROTC students are scheduled to perform.

The 100 citizenship candidates hail from 42 countries including China, India, Albania, Peru, Turkey, Nigeria, and Vietnam, the statement said. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, approximately 680,000 people become US citizens each year.

Westy Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at BC’s Graduate School of Social Work, said in a phone interview that Rijal was a refugee when he immigrated to the US five years ago. He is the first in his family to attend college, and aspires to be a medical researcher.

“In many ways he is the perfect example of the continuing commitment BC has of welcoming the world and building citizens…,” Egmont said. “I think immigrants have always found a school like this to always to be a nurturing community.”

Egmont said that Denis Riordan, district director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, approached BC with the idea to host a naturalization ceremony in part because he knew the school’s history of serving immigrants.

“For him it is inspirational and educational to move it outside of the buildings of government and into the community,” Egmont said of Riordan.

Alberto Godenzi, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, said the naturalization ceremony is also a learning opportunity for Boston College students. Godenzi, who emigrated from Switzerland and was naturalized in 2010 along with his wife and daughter, said he hopes the ceremony will change people’s perception of immigration.

“We also wanted for the students, faculty and staff to know what naturalization means,” he said. “There’s so much conversation going on about immigration that is negatively connoted. That [immigrants] take the jobs away, and they raise the rate of crime. But the huge majority of them, if not all have come here with great excitement to be part of the American excitement and dream.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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