On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at Highland Park High School (HPHS), approximately 150 citizen candidates from 37 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens at the first Highland Park – Highwood Legal Aid Clinic Naturalization Ceremony. The Honorable Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, administered the Oath of Allegiance. The Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Clinic (the Clinic) Student Board organized the ceremony. Clinic Founder, Mayor Nancy Rotering welcomed the new American citizens with a keynote address and Highland Park High School Principal Tom Koulentes also shared remarks. Following the ceremony, organizers agreed to make the event an annual occurrence.
“We are a nation of immigrants and are proud to welcome these new American citizens into our country with a ceremony that celebrates their achievement,” stated Mayor Nancy Rotering. “Our students have set a wonderful example for all of us by coordinating this unique opportunity. Their compassion and leadership have made a tangible difference in the lives of so many.”
Terry Horwitz Kass, Clinic Board Member and Student Board Founder explained, “The students at HPHS are aware of and care deeply about immigration issues. This past fall they put on a panel to discuss the current state of immigration laws. The students jumped at the opportunity to host a Naturalization Ceremony at HPHS. The students as well as the entire community are enriched by participating in such a meaningful ceremony.”
“Through this hands on experience, the Clinic Student Board engaged in a living civics lesson, built a greater appreciation of what it means to be an American citizen and are literally sharing their learning with others,” said Highland Park High School Principal Dr. Tom Koulentes. “Our students strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment within Highland Park High School. Today’s ceremony achieved that goal.”
The Clinic Student Board was founded by Clinic Board member Terry Horwitz Kass as an opportunity for high school students to gain hands on experience in providing advocacy for those in need while learning about the legal profession. Over 25 HPHS students participate. Members Daphne Kass and Sarah Fox organized the event and were recognized by Mayor Rotering at a recent Highland Park City Council Meeting.