Yanet’s Citizenship Journey
In April, an Edmond video went viral. School children were cheering for their cafeteria manager for gaining citizenship. Yanet Lopez was surprised and tearful as she walked through the Prairie Vale Elementary hallways, lined with 250 students waving American flags and giving her hugs.
“Everybody was clapping and chanting U.S.A.,” Yanet said. “They made me feel so good.”
The principal, Michelle Anderson, said, “We posted the video, and things went crazy. All the major news stations called. I thought I’d have to quit my job and become her press agent!”
When Yanet was 14, she knew she wanted to come to America. Out of fear, her parents never criticized the Cuban government in front of their daughter, but one of Yanet’s friends was more forthcoming about communism. Yanet decided, “I don’t want to live in this country. There’s no freedom. I need to go to the United States and be free.”
As an adult, Yanet moved to Mexico, but eight years later, violence forced her further north. She and her husband, three children, and her mother became refugees, requesting asylum at the U.S. border in 2015. The Lopezes became legal residents, with her husband continuing his career as a mechanical engineer, and Yanet and her mother becoming cafeteria workers at Prairie Vale in Deer Creek.
“I’m really happy working here. My mom and I feel happy every day because the students smile and tell us that our food is amazing!” Yanet said.
“Yanet makes our day every day,” said Anderson. “She walks through the office every morning and says, ‘Hello, pretty ladies!’”
When Yanet asked for a few hours off to take the citizenship test with her family, Anderson was excited for her and began making tentative celebration plans. But Yanet was worried. “I wasn’t sure I could pass the test. My English, it’s not so good, but we studied hard. My son tells me every day, ‘Mom, work on your verbs.’” Yanet laughed. “I took classes and watched videos. I loved learning about American history. The history here is amazing.”
The day after the test, Yanet told Anderson that she’d done great, and she had passed. “So, I got some other staff to distract her while I made a schoolwide intercom announcement, and within two minutes, the students were in the halls celebrating,” Anderson said.
“And that’s when my principal–my friend Michelle– she gave me my first American flag,” Yanet said. “That means so much to me. I hold it to my heart. It is on a special shelf in my house.”
Afterward, Anderson reached out to see if the school could host the naturalization ceremony for Yanet. Nine days later, Yanet’s husband and sons and eight other people were also sworn in at Prairie Vale. The presiding officer wrote a letter to the school, stating how “incredibly touched” she was to see the new citizens celebrating together, talking like old friends. Yanet’s husband expressed his gratitude to the school for “loving his wife so much.”
Yanet’s enthusiasm for her new status as an American citizen is infectious. “I love the expression, ‘I have a dream,’ from Dr. Martin Luther King. For my family, I had a dream,” Yanet said, smiling happily. “We did it. We are fine now. We are citizens. I feel like part of this country now. And the whole country knows it!”
Search “Yanet Lopez Edmond” on YouTube to view national news coverage.