Some high school journeys reach far beyond the four walls of a classroom and can even transcend national borders. Makyambe ‘Debbie’ Mitamba ‘24, has become the first in her family to attain US citizenship. The journey has been challenging for Mitamba, an immigrant student from the Congo who, for seven years, has called Dayton home while pursuing the dream of becoming a citizen.
The English Learners (EL) department at Chaminade Julienne became a part of Mitamba’s support system when she first enrolled at CJ in 2020 but further became an incredible resource for her during the weeks leading up to her citizenship test. Faculty and staff, alongside her friends, rallied behind her, creating a nurturing environment for study sessions.
“When her EL peers learned that she was taking the citizenship test, they wanted to be involved and helpful,” said Krystal Rosa, EL coordinator. “ They all stepped in, helped her study using flashcards, and as soon as they all found out she passed we celebrated for weeks. It is truly a blessing to work with English Learners and seeing Debbie become a US citizen and knowing she has the same rights as anyone that was born in the states, it's something so beautiful it’s hard to express with words”
Going into the test that included US history, reading, and writing Debbie recalls being nervous. Yet, in those anxious moments, she turned to prayer,
"Right before the test I took a minute and whispered, ‘God, please be here with me."
Her determination and the unwavering support of her community saw her through, as she successfully navigated the citizenship test and passed on her first attempt.
“I have worked with Debbie since I started at CJ in January of 2021,” said Krystal Rosa, EL coordinator. “When I first began working with her she was more quiet and shy because she was still developing English language skills. Once she started mastering the language she started to become so talkative as she shared all about her culture, background, and knowledge.”
Debbie's newfound citizenship was more than just a personal achievement; it held the key to opening up a channel to her family still in the Congo. With the newfound ability to travel freely, she can now bridge the gap between her family still in the Congo and her family living in the US.
“I’m really grateful for the support I received at CJ,” said Mitamba. “Ms. Rosa, Ms. Loffer, and Ms. Chandler helped me so much. At CJ I have been supported in learning, not only English but many other things and I have become closer to God. When I am here, I feel God.”
Mitamba now looks ahead with excitement as her plans are set on traveling, pursuing additional education, and saving for the future. She is a true testament to what the power of determination, community, education, and faith can do.