Gateway to the American Dream

Provost Peter Maphumulo and NOVA President Robert G. Templin, Jr. sit while 69 new citizens take the Oath of Allegiance. Photo by Kevin Mattingly

On November 30, NOVA helped the American Dream become a reality for several people from a wealth of nations. The Alexandria Campus hosted a naturalization ceremony in collaboration with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A total of 69 individuals representing 39 countries became American citizens after years of preparation.

NOVA President Robert G. Templin, Jr., USCIS District Director Sarah Taylor, USCIS Field Office Director Kimberly Zanotti and Provost Peter Maphumulo. Photo by Kevin Mattingly

Provost Peter Maphumulo (AL), born in South Africa, offered welcoming remarks and was impressed by the diversity of the pool of candidates about to be sworn in as new citizens.

“There is something wonderful about this mosaic,” said Maphumulo.“We are delighted to have you here.”

NOVA’s President Robert G. Templin, Jr., gave congratulatory remarks. “It has been a long journey,” Templin said. “You have endured hardships and setbacks, but you have arrived as new Americans. It is official and no one can take that from you. Now you are united as one. This marks the beginning of a new journey as citizens of the United States. Like millions before you, you have come with a united purpose: to achieve the American Dream, whatever that may be for you.”

Templin went on to say it was a natural alignment for the event to be held at NOVA because of the College’s strategic vision, Gateway to the American Dream. With citizenship comes responsibility to leave a positive legacy for future generations, and education is an integral vehicle in developing the skills and talents needed to ensure this happens.

When asked by the president if any of the new Americans had attended NOVA in the past, several hands went up. The rest of the audience was reassured by Templin that NOVA will always welcome them.

“For those of you who have not been here, this is your home,” Templin said.

The naturalization ceremony was coordinated by Alexandria Campus Community Relations Specialist Ken Balbuena, who formerly worked in an immigration services office of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. “I helped clients complete their citizenship applications,” Balbuena said. “I visited with them before they had their interviews with an immigration officer and I saw the joy on their faces after they had become new Americans, but I had never seen a naturalization ceremony for myself. This was the perfect opportunity for me not only to see a ceremony in person but to allow NOVA to have a small part in making their very special day even more special.”

Other NOVA participants included Jasmine Williams , a Loudoun Campus student and the NOVA Idol 2011 winner, and Lama Hamdan, an assistant professor of Arabic at the Alexandria Campus and a naturalized citizen. Williams sang the National Anthem and Hamden led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ceremonies are normally held at local USCIS field offices and not off-site locations. According to Maphumulo, this was the first time a NOVA campus has hosted a naturalization ceremony and he hopes this can be an annual event.