Twelve years after leaving their native country of Mexico and settling in the Richmond area, siblings Giancarlo Orsatti and Ariadna Rendon became U.S. citizens this week, having been guided through the naturalization process by a service-learning course at Virginia Commonwealth University that assists the local immigrant population.
“Now we have a voice in our country. We can vote for president. And we now have more opportunities as citizens than as residents,” said Orsatti, an HIV counselor and psychology student at John Tyler Community College who will be transferring to VCU in the fall.
Orsatti and Rendon took part in a class taught by Anita Nadal (B.A.’05/H&S; Cert.’07/H&S), an assistant professor of Spanish, and her students at VCU that teaches Richmond-area immigrants English and prepares them for the U.S. citizenship test.
“It’s important to me because we’re now part of this country,” said Rendon, who works as a medical interpreter for VCU Health. “Before, we [lived here] but we didn’t fully belong. Now that we’re sworn in, we are committed to serve this country. It’s special.”
The brother and sister were among five students who took the class and were sworn in as U.S. citizens on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in downtown Richmond.
“There aren’t words to express how powerful it is to see the outcome of our service-learning course – the outcome of five new U.S. citizens,” Nadal said, outside the courthouse on Wednesday. “I’m just too emotional to describe how it feels. It’s just amazing.”
The class was supported by a $20,000 community engagement grant called “A Welcoming Richmond.” These grants are awarded annually by the Council for Community Engagement and administered by VCU’s Division of Community Engagement.