U.S. Circuit Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco

'Something to be part of that's history' 

A group of Uniondale High School students took part Thursday in what was both a unique occasion in their academic careers and a momentous event in the lives of 121 new citizens — a naturalization ceremony in a Central Islip court.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco administered the Oath of Allegiance in the Alfonse M. D'Amato U.S. Courthouse, as the students sat beside friends and family of the new Americans.

The school choir performed an a cappella rendition of the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Students also distributed flags from each person's home country to the new citizens, who, Bianco said, are from more than 25 countries.

“My message to you is simply this: The greatness of our nation and its unprecedented opportunity for freedom, prosperity and happiness for every single citizen, from sea to shining sea, is available to each one of you,” Bianco said.

Naturalization, the process by which a person born outside of the United States becomes a U.S. citizen, includes administration of the oath, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and meaningful words about the importance of citizenship and civic responsibility, according to the presiding judge. The courthouse holds two naturalization ceremonies a week, Bianco said.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco, right, presides over...

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco, right, presides over a naturalization ceremony for 121 people at the Alfonse M. D’Amato U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip on Thursday. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The ceremony is an annual event for Uniondale High School, which also livestreamed the event via Zoom for about 40 students in the school auditorium.

Raneia Barrett, 14, who is in the school's Army JROTC program, said he was excited to attend the ceremony for the first time. 

“It sounded interesting,” he said. “I wanted to see what was happening and how it was done.”

Major Anthony Telesca, of the school's Army JROTC program, said the event was an opportunity for students in his program to be socially engaged. The school has about 75 students in the Army JROTC program, nine of whom attended the ceremony.

“The Army JROTC is not about joining the military, but it's about motivating students to become better citizens,” he said. “It's great for them to see how this is a part of the process.”

The United States is a land of opportunity, Bianco said during the ceremony, adding that his grandparents emigrated from Italy and his youngest son is adopted from China. Diversity is what truly makes this land great, he said, noting that some of the new citizens are from Ukraine and Russia who can live here in peace despite Russia's nearly two-year war with Ukraine.

“We are better because you are here,” he said to the new citizens. 

After the ceremony, Bianco took part in a Q&A session with the students, both on Zoom and in person. The students at the ceremony also had a mock trial with the federal judge to learn about the courtroom process. 

Cadence Peace, 16, of Uniondale, the choir's soloist, said this was her second year singing at the ceremony. Like last year, she felt an overwhelming amount of emotion because she knew the ceremony “means a lot” to the new citizens.

“I broke down a little bit while singing the solo because I saw people crying,” she said. “This is nothing I thought I'd ever do.”

By Maureen Mullarkey