Making it in America
the road to 4. Have lived in the state where the citizenship Form N-400 is
by Cameron Paulson
aiting rooms, paper work, and countless days of missing school, senior Somtoya Arinze knows these all too well as her struggle for citizenship continues. After living in the US for the past 17 years, Arinze’s frustration about her lack of citizenship grows. “I’ve been dealing with citizenship since I can remember,” Arinze said. “It’s always been annoying but now it’s effecting me for college.” Like many other seniors, Arinze is applying to college, but her application process is much more difficult. “Because I’m not legally a citizen, I have to apply as an international student, which is a lot more expensive.” Arinze said. “I also can’t apply for financial aid from the state.” Arinze’s citizenship burden stemmed from her previous but brief life in Nigeria. “I was born in Nigeria,”
Arinze said. “I moved here when I was one because my parents wanted to live the ‘American Dream’ and wanted what was best for me.” Over the years, Arinze’s confusion with government and it’s laws seems never ending. “Recently my residency has been taken away, and even though I had it for awhile for some reason it’s gone,” Arinze said. “I’m not exactly legal, but I’m not illegal. I’m in a downloading stage that seems like it won’t finish.” In Nigerian culture, a strong emphasis is put on children succeeding. “My parents have always wanted me to do the best I can, but [lack of ] citizenship can potentially hold me back.,” Arinze said. “Even though it’s a burden for my parents and myself, I’ve learned to deal with it.” Throughout her life, Arinze recounts that lack of citizenship has gotten in the way of important activities. “Going on a foreign exchange trip is always a hassle because [I’m] questioned for hours,” Arinze said. “Even school is difficult because I miss so much going to appointments [to gain citizenship.]” Despite her troubles, college and career counselor Shannon Rodriguez believes that Arinze will succeed in life no matter what struggles may impede her. “There is no doubt that [Somtoya’s] future is bright because she’ll have it no other way. [Somtoya] is a problem-solver and will not quit until she meets her goals,” Rodriguez
Uniting nations Senior Zoe Ezzes paints rocks to bring hope to Darfur. first person by Zoe Ezzes
There is only one place where ladybugs, seahawks, and frogs can all be found together. Darfur Rocks, the RUHS club that I started at the beginning of the school year, paints all of these designs and more in order to raise money for Darfur. I may have only started the club this year, but Darfur Rocks has existed since 2006. When I was in sixth grade, my mother told me that I should get more involved in community service, and I listened. She suggested a few different charities and organizations that I could work for, and the Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project to help victims of the Darfur genocide resonated the most with me. Once I had a cause, all I needed to do was come up with a way to raise money and awareness for it. I had heard about some students painting rocks and selling them to help a charity before. I thought it was a creative way to help out and decided to try it out, painting rocks and selling them for $1 each. So I created Darfur Rocks. While the project’s name
10 HIGH TIDE . FEATURES
1. Be at least 18 years old
submitted for at least three months
able to read, 2. Have had a 5. Be write and speak valid Green Card for at least five years
3. Have maintained continuous residence in the United States for at least five years
6. Be a person
of good moral character and willing to abide by the principles of the U.S. Constitution
7. Have a general
knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government
said. “She simply doesn’t quit. I think that is her most admirable quality.” Not only does Arinze take refuge in Ms. R, but she does so in her church as well. “Going to church is somewhat of a support system,” Arinze said. “I go and pray and even though it isn’t getting me citizenship, it’s comforting.” Arinze’s hopes for the future are nothing but high, despite difficulty with citizenship. “I plan on going to college and getting a good career and hopefully, after I’m 18, citi-
is mostly self-explanatory, I liked the positive connotation of the title, implying that Darfur rocks and is deserving of help and attention. Also, someone’s “rock” is a dependable person in times of hardship, and I hoped that the rocks for Darfur, through the money raised from the project, would help to provide a similar sense of security, by helping to keep women safe. The concept behind the Solar Cooker Project is simple: keeping Darfurian women safe at home with solar cookers instead of out searching for firewood where the Janjaweed militia could attack them. My project is similarly simple and effective, with a creative, artsy flair. To get started all I had to do was pick up some rocks at gardening stores and some paints and sharpies from Joann’s. I was not sure what designs people would like, so I started out doing a bunch of different designs and seeing which sold the best. The ladybugs were the most popular by far, and they have come to be the face of Darfur Rocks. Once the sales had picked up momentum and the rocks were being sold at three different locations, I started to get locally recognized. Darfur Rocks made it into the newspaper and got formally recognized by the Jewish World Watch. A photographer interested in my story decided to help me get Darfur Rocks online and took photos and set up a website for my project. I even got my own cable TV show called Kids LA that featured kids helping out the community, and I was the
zenship will come,” she said. According to Rodriguez, Somtoya’s personality and character will carry her throughout the difficult times and move on to better days. “[Somtoya] faces challenges with creative solutions, and, even though at times she gets discouraged, she always manages to find the silver lining in a dark cloud,” Rodriguez said. “I’m also impressed with [Somtoya’s] honesty. She’s real and one of the most authentic people I know.”
host. Through awareness of the project, I simultaneously raised awareness for the cause. Once people saw what I was doing to help, they wanted to help too. People saw how simple the project was and realized how little it takes to make a difference. It is always important to care, and every contribution, no matter how small, counts. There is a story about a young boy throwing beached sea stars back into the ocean to save their lives. When a man told the boy that his efforts were futile as there were thousands of sea stars and the boy could not possibly make a difference, the boy replied that he had made a difference for those stars that he had thrown. I raised over $7,000 for the Solar Cooker Project during middle school operating on my own, and the club I have created at Redondo has already raised over $60 in just a few weeks. Maintaining a solar cooker for one year for one family costs $40, so that means Darfur Rocks has helped over 170 families. Maybe in the large scheme of things, donating that many solar cookers may seem small. And it is true that there may be too many sea stars for the project to throw back into the water. But to those 170 families receiving the cookers, it means the world. That is why I continue to paint rocks after so many years, and that is why I care. That is why the members of the Darfur Rocks club stay committed. If our
PHOTOS BY DIANA LUNA
by the numbers
Becoming An American
Senior Somtoya Arinze works hard to make a name for herself and become a citizen.
There were 39.9 million foreignborn people in the United States in 2010.
were naturalized citizens.
were legal permanent residents.
were unauthorized migrants.
3 percent were temporary legal residents 2.6 trillion dollars lost over ten years if all undocumented immagrants were deported americanprogress.org
Back to step one. 1. Senior Somtoya Arinze does her best to balance school, working towards her citizenship, and preparing for college. 2. While things can get tough, Arinze still strives to do her best in school and keep focused. 3. According to college counselor Shannon Rodriguez, Arinze is destined for success.
2. community were suffering, we would want the world to know and to do its best to intervene and help. We must then do for others what we would want them to do for us.
by Susan Nieves
At first, he was told to wait six months. Six months later, a letter came stating to wait 90 days. Ninety days after that, another letter came stating to wait 45 more days. For senior Florian Pal, the road to citizenship has been long and drawn-out that has come with difficulties. Living in the United States without citizenship has limited Pal’s opportunities. Before becoming a citizen, he was denied access to basic prvileges like a driver’s license and the ability to apply for FAFSA, just to name a few. Pal’s friend, senior Chris Valcarcel, also faced the same difficulties when he moved to the United States. “It sucks not to have the same privileges as everyone else,” Valcarcel said. “It feels like you’re depending on other people to do things for you. You’re a lot more free when you’re a citizen.” When Pal moved from Austria, he was expecting to exercise some of these freedoms.
1. PHOTOS BY HAILEY NEWMAN
Painting for a
cause. 1. Senior Zoe Ezzes is happy that she can help so many people by doing something so simple. 2. The rocks are painted simply but the sales have helped many families in Darfur.
Citizenship at last for Pal
He quickly learned, however, that he would not be able to enjoy the same privileges as a citizen. “The first time I came here I was [excited] about getting my license because in Europe you can’t get it until you’re 18,” Pal said. “I [later] found out that I couldn’t get it. I had to wait.” Pal became naturalized over a month ago. Since then, he has received a social security number and has had the opportunity to work. He currently has an internship at Northrop Grumman. “He’s a really smart guy,” Valcarcel said. “I like to see to see my friend succeed and he [has] reached that stage.” Despite the lengthy process, Pal feels lucky to have had the opportunity to become a citizen. “My grandparents live in Chicago and it took them 9 years to get their citizenship,” he said. “For me, it took one year and that [seemed like] a really long time.”
PHOTOS BY DIANA LUNA
Dream come true. Pal enjoys the benifits of becoming a citizen, like being able to intern at Northrop Grumman.
11 HIGH TIDE . FEATURES
Published on Feb 8, 2013