FALMOUTH – Abdulahi Abdi stood out among 32 immigrants who swore the Oath of Allegiance during a citizenship ceremony Thursday morning at Falmouth Middle School.

With his right hand raised high above his head, a red-white-and-blue star on his left lapel, Abdi promised to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

It was an emotional moment for the 35-year-old Portland resident, who works at Unum and has a wife and seven children. He came to the United States in 2005, after fleeing Somalia and living in Kenya as a refugee.

“This is my country now,” Abdi said earnestly.

The immigrants who became naturalized citizens on Thursday came from 15 countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Germany, Haiti, Jamaica, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

The ceremony was sponsored by the middle school’s eight fifth-grade classes, which have been studying immigration’s impact on the United States in depth, said teacher Katie Coppens. The students recently took the citizenship test to learn something about the modern immigrant experience.

“What we’ve been studying played out here today,” said Emily McConnell, one of 160 fifth-graders who attended the ceremony. “It was interesting to see what people do. We took the citizenship test in class and we realized how hard it is to become a citizen.”

Sixteen students from the Chebeague Island School also attended the ceremony because they have been studying immigration this year, too. In classes from kindergarten through fifth grade, the students have visited Museum L-A in Lewiston, kept immigration journals and learned about their own immigrant ancestry, said teacher Kristin Westra.

In the coming weeks, they will meet an island resident who was born in Jordan and lived in Egypt, learn about various ethnic foods and make quilt squares representing their ethnic backgrounds, said teacher Tammy Hoidal. The squares will be stitched into a quilt that will be displayed at the Chebeague Island Historical Society.

The middle school chorus sang crystalline renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” Maria Testa, a local author who has written extensively about immigration, was the featured speaker at the ceremony.

“You have honored all of us by choosing to become Americans,” Testa said.

Myra Turmenne, 27, became a citizen on Thursday. Her family reflects the U.S. immigration experience through three generations.

Turmenne, a native of the Philippines, came to Maine in 2007 to marry David Turmenne, 42, an electrician who lives in Sabattus. The couple met on a website for Christian singles. Now, they have two children, 2-year-old Isaac and 10-month-old Ruth.

With them at the ceremony was Turmenne’s mother, Murielle Turmenne of Lewiston. Her parents were French-Canadian immigrants.

“That’s the nature of America,” David Turmenne said. “It’s a blessing for Myra to become a citizen.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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