LAWRENCE — When Francheska Montas raised her hand to take the Oath of Allegiance, she took a deep breath and smiled to finally be naturalized as a U.S. citizen.
“I’m honored to be a citizen,” said Montas, who moved to Lawrence at age 14. “This is where I’ve received my education, my job and been able to raise a family. This is a big blessing for me.”
Montas, a 1998 graduate of Lawrence High, was one of 25 men and women who became naturalized U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Campagnone Common yesterday. Judge Frank J. Bailey, Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge, administered the oath.
The new citizens came to the United States from Cambodia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Iraq, Portugal, Russia, Uganda and the United Kingdom. They now live in Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, Rowley, Lowell, Acton, Hudson and Worcester.
The ceremony in Lawrence is one of 180 such events across the country through Sept. 23. During this period, 18,000 people will become U.S. citizens as part of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ annual celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is commemorated every Sept. 17 in honor of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. In 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill formalizing the celebration of Citizenship Day. In 2004, Congress established Sept. 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
Students from Lawrence and Andover had several roles in yesterday’s ceremony. Members of the Lawrence High School Junior ROTC made the presentation of colors, Priscilla Brito of Lawrence sang “God Bless America” the 15-member Lawrence High School Girls Choir sang, the “Star Spangle Banner” and “America the Beautiful” and students from Esperanza Academy recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Hannah B. and Hannah C. fifth-graders at Thomson School, North Andover alternated reading the countries where the new citizens had immigrated from.