By Nancy Berlier
When you walk down the main hall of The Summit, look up.
There you will see 36 flags from around the world that represent the nationalities of our student body. This show of colors embraces the expatriates, naturalized citizens and international students who broaden our cultural identity.
While this is a constant reminder of our global diversity, every year, The Summit hosts a naturalization service for new citizens who raise their right hands in Flannery Gym and swear their allegiance to the United States. This year, the Hon. Timothy S. Black, U.S. District Judge, presided over the ceremony where 99 people representing 44 countries were sworn in. Since 2013, 535 people have become citizens at The Summit.
For our part, we put on all the pageantry we can muster for this momentous occasion. Our Boy Scouts are the color guard. Our band plays patriotic tunes and students sing patriotic songs.
But the point of hosting the ceremony, is to impress upon our students what a privilege it is to grow up in America and how important it is to be an inclusive culture. Not everyone has freedom of speech. Not everyone has access to education, good housing, clean water, opportunity for employment and a system of justice that protects individual rights. These new citizens are reaching for an American dream that we are already living.
“This ceremony puts a global face on our local community,” says Upper School religion teacher Stephanie Duggan. “It is awe inspiring to see a group of such hard-working, diverse people pledge allegiance to our country. They are perfect examples for our students of what determination and dreams can do.”
Affiliated with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who founded the school, The Summit keeps the hallmarks of the sisters at the forefront. “Two of my favorite hallmarks are ‘we honor the dignity and sacredness of each person’ and ‘we embrace the gift of diversity,’ ” Mrs. Duggan says. “Our students we able to experience these hallmarks in the flesh.”
Students acknowledge that the array of citizen candidates and their families and friends make a huge impression on them.
Junior Emma Perez says: “It made me think of how lucky we are and how much we take for granted being born in the United States,” she said. “It made me respect immigrants and their hard work and aspirations.”
Junior Bry Woodard was impressed by the diversity. “It was cool to see all of the different cultures coming together under one roof to celebrate each other and the achievements of the prospective citizens.”
“Aside from being inspirational, I think seeing the new citizens and hearing them speak does much to break down stereotypes of what an immigrant looks and acts like,” says The Summit’s band teacher Robert Browning. “It is great for our students to see well-dressed, well-educated people from all over the globe study to pass a test and gain citizenship in our country. And it is important for all of us to know that, while we have our problems which are highlighted daily in the news, the U.S. is still a destination for people around the world seeking freedom and opportunity.
Hosting the ceremony aligns with The Summit’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and underscore’s the part of our school’s mission that calls on us to develop our God-given spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and artistic talents and use them to make the world a better place. You’ll see and hear this Bible passage frequently here at The Summit: To whom much is given, much is expected.
“We teach our students that diversity is good,” says Head of School Rich Wilson. “We embrace new ideas, perspectives and customs. We find that when many voices are heard, it makes us stronger. It makes us better. At The Summit Country Day School, we have more than 1,000 kids in our school, and 45 of those children have citizenship outside the country. They bring a lot of teaching and learning to all our students.”
So when you walk down our main hallway, look up. We shouldn’t take that dream for granted.
Judge Black asked us to remember: “We are a nation of immigrants.”
The Summit Magazine: Our Global Summit
Signature Program: World Language
Our International Community
Photo gallery of naturalization ceremony
About the Author
Nancy Berlier is the Communications Director at The Summit Country Day School. She is the editor of The Summit magazine, a former education writer at The Cincinnati Post and former education editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer.