Maine Field Office Immigration Services Officer Alanna Reid congratulates 15 children from around Maine on becoming new U.S. citizens at a ceremony Oct. 31 at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine congratulated and celebrated some of Maine’s youngest new citizens and their families last week at a special children’s citizenship ceremony.

Fifteen children ages 5 to 13 originally from Benin, Djibouti, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya and Vietnam participated in the Oct. 31 event at the museum.

Laura St. Louis, of Bangor, holds an American flag after officially becoming an American citizen last week. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“This is a very special day and it seems fitting we are having a children’s ceremony at the Children’s Musuem,” said Cindy Lembarra, the director of the U.S. Customs in Immigration Services Maine field office.

The children read the official oath of allegiance that is part of the naturalization process, but unlike other citizen requirements for adults, they did not have to go through the months of applications and tests.

“This is more ceremonial in nature and involved children who have derived citizenship or were adopted by citizens,” Lembarra said. “What we want to do today is celebrate them becoming U.S. citizens.”

Wafaa Elayawi, of Biddeford couldn’t be happier to get to this day and see her sons, Abdullah, 13, Mohammed, 12, and Abdulrhman, 9, participate in the ceremony.

“We are so happy. I am so grateful and excited for my family. Finally we are all together in this safe place,” said Elayawi, a Jordan native who got her U.S. citizenship last August.

“I feel we have a home, a place here,” Abdullah Al Rifaie said just prior to taking the stage with his brothers. “We are citizens now. America is my home. It make me feel happy and excited.”

Bangor resident Suze St. Louis, who became a citizen through a similar children’s citizenship ceremony as a teenager, was thrilled to see her daughter Laura, 5, do the same.

“It’s amazing and such a relief because it been a long process. I am glad we are finally at the end of it,” said St. Louis, originally from Haiti.

Abdullah Al Rifaie, left, and his brother, Abdulrhman, recite the oath of allegiance at the citizenship ceremony. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Alanna Reid, an immigration services officer in the Maine field office reminded the children that “citizenship is a gift to you from your parents.”

“Ask them about their journey and thank them for all they have done to make this day possible,” she said.

Lembarra said the ceremony, the second the Children’s Museum hosted this year, serves as a good learning opportunity for children about their parents’ quest,  patriotism, what it means to be a citizen and how to participate in government.

“At the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, we exist for all families and all children in Maine and to be able to welcome our newest citizens like this makes a lot of sense for us,” Executive Director Julie Butcher Pezzino said. “It is a very celebratory time and a very special time. It is a big deal to become a citizen and their parents have put in a lot of time and paperwork to get here.”

All children under 10 years old participating in the ceremony was given a free year’s membership to the museum.

“We want to offer them a chance to explore here,” she said.

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