Whitney Marcellin reached a special milestone in her life July 29. She became a citizen of the United States of America after taking a solemn oath at a naturalization ceremony.
Marcellin was raised in St. Lucia, a small island country in the Caribbean Sea. She never thought much of becoming a citizen of the United States until she flew to New York City to visit her sister. Compared to her hometown of Castries with 60,000 people, New York City was a crowded city.
“So when I traveled to Altus, Oklahoma, I thought it was the middle of nowhere,” Whitney said. “Now I am enjoying living in this small town compared to New York City.”
“My hope in leaving my native country in 2012 was to have more education,” she said. “Most children can only attend school up to sixth-grade. Then, a test determines if one can go on to secondary school. Only two chances are given to advance. I was never allowed to continue my studies as I had trouble with the English testing. I am glad education is more available in the United States than in my home country.”
Marcellin arrived in Altus in February of 2013 with her husband who is serving in the Air Force and she contacted the Great Plains Literacy Council in November seeking help with English and help to pass the driver’s license test. GPLC Administrative Assistant Elsa Garcia became her tutor at the Altus Public Library and helped her reach that goal of being able to drive in February 2014. Whitney has worked as an assistant cook at the English Village Manor for the past three years, so being able to drive to work has been vital.
Marcellin wanted to continue learning more English, so Judy Miller taught her before moving away in April 2015. Then, Ida Fay Winters became her tutor and they met once a week to study the government, history and civic curriculum. Marcellin applied for citizenship in January 2016 and on June 16, she passed the tests.
Marcellin said the hardest part about the citizenship test was studying the information in English. Her native language is a form of French Creole, a mix of African and French, significantly different than English.
“I am so thankful that the United States gives immigrants opportunities to be citizens,” said Marcellin, who has also registered to vote.