Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NEIGHBORS >> Honoring a new American

Leader staff writer

Sue Hiipakka is proud to be an American.

Born in Germany, she’s even prouder after a special day was hosted in her honor after she became a U.S. citizen earlier this month.
“After 9/11 I wanted to show my allegiance to the United States,” said Hiipakka, a third-grade teacher at Ward Central Elementary in Cabot. “Besides, it’s good to have a say in your government from voting for president to the school board.”

Living near Ramstein, Germany, Sue Reis married Tech Sgt. Tom Hiipakka while he was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in 1983.
Other than a three-year stint in Michigan, the Hiipakkas stayed at Ramstein Air Force Base until 1996 when they were transferred to Little Rock Air Force Base. After Tom Hiipakka retired, Sue got an Arkansas teaching certificate and began teaching at Ward Central Elemen-tary about four years ago.

“I think most Americans take their citizenship for granted,” Hiipakka said.
Becoming a naturalized citizen can take between five months to two years depending on the number of applications submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Service, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Hiipakka said she had to study a thick, three-ring binder on American history for a civics test as well as an English test.
Applicants must be photographed, fingerprinted and go through an interview process.

After completing her exams, Hiipakka took the oath of citizenship during a ceremony in Little Rock two weeks ago, and the school then decided to surprise her by holding an “American Day.”

Most of the students came to school wearing red, white and blue clothing. Teachers decorated Hiipakka’s classroom with patriotic red, white and blue banners. During a morning ceremony, students raised the flag, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.

Michele French, principal at the school dressed like a judge to reenact Hiipakka’s oath of citizenship ceremony in front of the students.
Connie Kempf, speech pathologist and resident poet at the school, wrote the poem “Congratulations New Citizen” in honor of Hiipakka.

Hip hip hurray
Hip hip hurray
Let’s hear it for Mrs. Hiipakka
It’s her special day!

Way to go, Mrs. Hiipakka
We’re so proud of your new name
The title “U. S. Citizen”
You now can claim!

You studied hard and passed the test
That I would hate to take
But not our “Super Citizen”
For you, it was a piece of cake!

Let’s raise the roof and clap our hands
And show our Ward Central Pride
Red, white and blue shine just for you
Our happiness we cannot hide!

“We are so proud of this lady,” French said, hugging Hiipakka.
After the morning assembly, Zach Owen, manager of Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cabot, delivered 65 snack boxes of chicken and biscuits to the school so the teachers could have an American lunch.