08.18.15 —Students at Maywood got a rare and powerful perspective on American citizenship during the extended school year. After 20 years in the United States, Gangadai Sookhoo, a teaching assistant in Kimberly Gordon's Comprehensive Development Skills Class, was awarded U.S. Citizenship earlier this month. Following the formal ceremony, Sookhoo, better known as Ms. Nadia to her students, arrived at Maywood to cheers and patriotic music as students and staff greeted her dressed in red, white and blue.
That afternoon, she spoke to students about her experiences in her native country of Guyana, her family's decision to move to the United States and the process of gaining her citizenship.
Sookhoo, who has learned and worked in the country for two decades, was motivated to take her citizenship test to gain opportunities and rights, including the right to vote. Student's thoughtful questions prompted a conversation about opportunity and education.
The class found Guyana on a map, as Sookhoo shared some of the
many differences between education in Guyana and the students'
experiences here. "We didn't have transportation like you do, or
school lunches,â€� said Doodanuth, "and the living situation was much
To gain her citizenship, Sookhoo had to file an application, be fingerprinted, have a background check conducted, go through a series of interviews and, finally, take a ten-question citizenship test, drawn from 100 possible questions. The test application cost $680. If Sookhoo had not passed with the minimum nine correct answers, she would have had to reapply at a later date and pay the full amount again. It was a risk and an investment she believed was worth it, and she now proudly calls herself a U.S. citizen.
When Sookhoo asked the class a few sample questions from the test, which ranged from economics and government to the symbolism of the nation's flag, students realized they would have some studying of their own to do to earn their citizenship rights.
Following the question and answer session, Maywood Principal Carol d'Estienne and teacher Kim Gordon presented Sookhoo with a congratulatory letter and certificate from Senator Hugh Farley and her Maywood family welcomed her, officially, as a citizen of the country she has called home for 20 years.