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‘I’m so thankful we can sing for them’

Elementary choir welcomes new U.S. citizens with patriotic songs

As they lined up along a staircase to wait to perform at a recent naturalization ceremony, East Oakview Elementary choristers seemed to truly understand that the U.S. is full of those who weren’t born in this country.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum is a proud sponsor of SNN
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum is a proud sponsor of SNN

“My grandpa was born in Greece,” Andre Williams offered.

“My mother came from Dubai,” said Page Robinson.

Added Zack Johnson, “I know someone who just became a citizen yesterday who is from Russia.”

And so it was that a group of more than 20 fourth-graders heralded through song the addition of 73 new U.S. citizens from 30 countries at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids. They welcomed the newcomers with a jaunty version of “You’re a Grand Old Flag” as well as the solemn “God Bless America.”

Lou Sinigos was born in Greece and became a naturalized citizen in 1964

It was a poignant event for choir director Lou Sinigos, a native of Greece who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1964 at age 3.

“I barely remember it, but I do remember carrying a flag and walking down a hallway in this big old (former City Hall) building,” Sinigos recalled. “I remember it was a little scary somehow, but that it felt like something very special.”

As the new U.S. citizens made their way across the stage to shake Judge Scott W. Dales’ hand, Sinigos said he was “having trouble keeping it together.”

“I’m so thankful we can sing for them, on a day they will remember for the rest of their lives,” he said. “And I’m so excited to have the kids see this.

“Someday they will probably reflect on this and see how important it is, how blessed we are that we are citizens of the United States, no matter what the political climate.”


East/West Oakview music Facebook page

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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  1. IT was so good to see Lou and his choristers in action. He is a most dedicated man, who loves what he does and he does it so well. His contribution to the community is immeasurable. Thanks or writing the story Morgan.


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