Penn Yan mother, daughter become U.S. citizens

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
From left, Felisa Vasquez, Nancy Richardson, and Lesly Vasquez after the ceremony at the Women's Rights National Historical Park's Weslyan Chapel.

Less than two weeks before beginning her third year of college, a Penn Yan woman and her mother became U.S. citizens in an Aug. 18 ceremony at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s Wesleyan Chapel.

Lesly and Felisa Vasquez were among 19 people from 17 countries who were sworn in by U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson. Both have been students at the Penn Yan office of Literacy Volunteers of Ontario-Yates.

Lesly Vasquez is a 2015 graduate of Penn Yan Academy and a 2017 Phi Theta Kappa Honor Graduate of Finger Lakes Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in American Sign Language. She is now attending Keuka College, working on a bachelor’s degree in ASL — Interpreting. While she was a student at LVOY, Linda Fox of Penn Yan was her tutor.

Felisa Vasquez, whose husband, Hector, became a citizen in 2014, is the mother of four. She has been learning English with tutor Anne Schühle since 2013, and focusing on citizenship with tutor Karen Geyer at the weekly English Language Learner evening class.

“I want to thank Karen and LVOY for all of their help and support,” Vasquez said.

Tutor Nancy Richardson, who runs the Penn Yan English Language Learners class, helped both women with the application process.

Noemi Ghazala, superintendent of the park, told the new citizens that the park is now part of their history.

Payson pointed out that the journey to naturalization is never walked alone, and noted that the number of family and friends at the ceremony were a strong indication of the support that the 19 new citizens had received along the way.

“You worked hard to achieve citizenship,” she said. “I welcome you to our shared citizenship. We are a country of immigrants, and diversity makes us what we, as a country, are today.”

Applicants for citizenship must have been legal residents for 5 years and are required to fill out a lengthy application, be fingerprinted, and learn the answers to 100 civics, government, and U.S. history questions.

Several local groups and civic organizations participated in the event. The League of Women Voters registered the new citizens to vote. Members of the American Legion Auxiliary spoke about the flag and what it represents. Image City Sounds performed “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution gave each new citizen a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.