The blog series “Day in the Life” seeks to illustrate what it’s like to be a Serve Philadelphia VISTA. In the posts, current corps members explore what they’re learning from their position, how they’re contributing to their office, and what it means to do a year of service.
On Saturday, November 11, 2017, 27 Philadelphians followed me onto the center of Lincoln Financial Field. Surrounded by family, friends, and thousands of soccer fans, they were ready to become United States citizens at the home of the Eagles. Not your average day at the office, right?
I serve as the Community Citizenship and Outreach VISTA at the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA). As part of my work for OIA, I helped coordinate a naturalization ceremony at the second Philadelphia International Unity Cup. The Unity Cup is the City’s annual world-cup style soccer tournament. The Unity Cup competition brings together Philadelphia neighborhoods and celebrates the City’s diverse immigrant communities. This year, 47 nations and one refugee team competed in games around the city. Months of neighborhood matches culminated into a championship at Lincoln Financial Field.
I spent my afternoon of championship day greeting aspiring citizens. As thousands of soccer fans entered the stadium, I led naturalization ceremony participants to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff. On the field, teams Puerto Rico and Jamaica battled for the third-place title. Behind the scenes, I helped USCIS staff prepare for their portion of the event. Directly following Jamaica’s win, I led new citizens to onto the field for their time in the spotlight. As the naturalization ceremony began, my main job for the day was done. I spent the rest of the day posting to OIA’s social media while enjoying the final game. Team Liberia ultimately won their close championship match against Sierra Leone!
I admittedly don’t spend every work day at Lincoln Financial Field. Normally, I work from my desk on the 14th floor of the Municipal Services Building. I develop projects to improve outreach to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities. I spend most days working with local organizations and other City departments rather than directly serving immigrants. But it is this indirect capacity building work that makes events like the Unity Cup ceremony possible. The championship brought a unique opportunity to expose thousands of game spectators to a U.S. naturalization ceremony—an event many natural-born citizens never see.
My favorite part of my Unity Cup experience was connecting with naturalization ceremony participants. It was heartwarming to witness their pride and happiness as they became U.S. citizens. With the indirect nature of my work, I cherish these opportunities to hear personal stories. Learning about the citizenship process has giving me a greater appreciation for my mother’s immigration story. While not everyone has a recent connection to the immigration process, citizenship ceremonies allow anyone to reflect on their story as an American. As this year’s Unity Cup ended, I returned to my VISTA project with renewed motivation to serve Philadelphia’s immigrant communities.
Katerina Krohn is the Community Citizenship and Outreach Program VISTA for the Office of Immigrant Affairs.
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