Students and staff of the RancheView School provided 40 new Canadians from 13 different countries with a citizenship ceremony they'll cherish forever.
Orchestrated by Bill Belsey's grade 6 students with the support of the school, it provided a warm embrace to let our new citizens know they are truly home and welcomed with open arms.
"I'm very happy today," said a Utopian man (Aboriginal Australian homeland) who has been waiting three and a half years for this moment. "It is like my second birthday in my second country. I appreciate it, and I'm really glad to be Canadian and be here with my family."
One of the couple's children, a one-year-old boy, felt a little left out.
"He was born here and is already Canadian, so he was very jealous," he laughs, "He was crying when I received the citizenship."
The importance of this day wasn't lost on a mother and daughter from South Sudan who have been here for some time.
"We feel like we are official Canadians. Even though we've lived here for 20 years, it's home, but now it's actually home."
"We're so blessed, it's a blessed country."
Upon entering the school, guests were warmingly greeted by students, then entered a foyer illuminated with the red and white, and the maple leaf. Rocky the Racoon, Rocky View School's Student mascot posed for many photos, and student projects were on display about many countries of the world.
Inside the school's gymnasium, the school's amazing grade 6 band performed in advance of Cochrane piper Kellan Harris leading the platform party to the main stage. Later on in the ceremony, the school choir performed "Canada in My Pocket." The band struck up a triumphant rendition of our national anthem near the end of the ceremony.
Order of Canada recipient Irene Pfeiffer presided and administered the Oath of Citizenship, then congratulated each one of them, sometimes with a warm embrace, but always with a few kind and reassuring words.
Guest speaker Student Ashley Madula spoke first-hand about her own family's experience of immigrating to Canada and her pride in becoming a citizen.
Mayor Jeff Genung also "Welcome Home" the new citizens, a catchphrase used by the Canadian government, and praised the students for displaying the true spirit of our inclusive nation.
At a reception, new citizens posed for photos with the ceremony officials and were presented with a keepsake of the day from students.