WINDHAM —Krista Howe can’t wait to vote in the next election. 

Born in Canada, the Londonderry resident originally came to the U.S. to study nursing, ended up getting married and staying for the past 23 years, she said.

When it came time to spend $540 to renew her green card or $725 to become a citizen, Howe choose the latter.

“I love America and all that it stands for,” Howe said. “There’s more jobs and fewer taxes.”

She and about 49 others from 30 countries became American citizens Tuesday at a naturalization ceremony held at Windham High.

The ceremony to welcome the new citizens doubled as an educational opportunity for Windham students, who were able to watch the ceremony and see the final step of the process to become an American. Two students, sophomores Zoheb Alvi and AnnaMaria Hristea, were able to read letters they wrote in their American studies class.

Each welcomed the new Americans into citizenship with stories acknowledging the effort it took to get there.

Zoheb talked about helping his grandparents with their test, while AnnaMaria recounted helping her mother.

“Your dedication to this country should inspire all,” Zoheb said.

Both he and AnnaMaria thanked the new Americans for allowing the students to observe the ceremony, officiated by Landya B. McCafferty, chief judge of the United States District Court of New Hampshire.

Students watched as Hemant Deshpande and others held an American flag in their hands throughout the ceremony, taking the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. 

Deshpande was born in India and came to the U.S. 13 years ago on a work visa. The Dover resident plans to use his citizenship to help him continue to find job opportunities that aren’t available in India, he said.

“Basically I cannot work here” without citizenship, Deshpande said about the visa process for working in the U.S. “And now with (my citizenship) I can serve my community and do work in my community.”

Community service and civic engagement were at the forefront of McCafferty’s speech to the newly naturalized citizens, congratulating them on their ability to vote and serve on juries.

McCafferty reiterated multiple times that the country is based on democratic principals like the rule of law. She also talked about the role the court system plays in resolving disputes. 

Quoting former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, McCafferty said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”

After the ceremony ended, students observed the new Americans hugging family members and friends to celebrate.

Alba Ortiz hugged her husband tighter after the ceremony. She was pursuing citizenship because of love, she said.

“I came here for love and economic opportunity,” Ortiz said, adding she has been living in the United States for four years.

“During the ceremony I was thinking about people having a hard time staying here,” Ortiz said, adding she was lucky her process went so quickly with the help of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“The welcoming officers were open to answering questions and helping through the whole process,” Ortiz said. “That along with the fact that people here came from 30 countries is proof we are all welcome here” in the United States.

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