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Thais follows path to become an AMERICAN CITIZEN PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 11 November 2017 11:07

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EARL WATT
Leader & Times



The journey to becoming an American citizen took 13 years for Lady Saints volleyball coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen, and when it came to taking the citizenship test, she was more worried about the interview than answering questions about America.

“You hear these horror stories about what they might ask,” she said. “But it wasn’t like that at all.”

Still, she had a slight memory lapse that gave her a scare. During her time in America, she married Roy Allen, who has become Seward County’s athletic director.

“They asked me, ‘When is his birthday?’” she said. “I freaked out. I said, ‘Uh, uh, it’s in January, I know that.’ But we are a legitimate couple. So I was nervous about that.”

She made it through the interview and on to the written test, but if her father back home in Brazil would have had his way, his youngest daughter would have never made it to America.

Thais had been playing volleyball her entire life, and through high school, she played three volleyball seasons a year.

When she turned 18, she started the process to see if she could play for an American college.

“My dad said, ‘No, you aren’t going,’” she said. “I spoke no English. I was 18. We started the process, so I had a year to come. I got an offer two weeks later, and my dad  said, ‘You aren’t going.’”

But Thais’ mom talked to her dad, and she was able to play for a community college in Florida before finishing up her college career with Western New Mexico.

Still, dad wanted his little girl back home.

“When I came home for my first Christmas, my Dad said, ‘You can stay if you want,’” she said. “But I said, ‘No, I think I need to see this through.’”

Thanks to Skype, Thais was able to communicate with her family in Brazil, but after college, she wanted to see if coaching was right for her.

“You find out in a  year or two if coaching is something you really want to do,” she said. “And I loved it.”

With her student visa finished, Thais applied for a work visa and continued to teach and coach for the next five years which also brought her to Liberal to coach the Lady Redskin volleyball team.

She renewed her green card for a total of three years, and each time it cost more than $1,500.

Last February, she applied for citizenship and started the process of becoming an American.

She has also made the move to coaching the Lady Saints at Seward County Community College, and she now sees young women coming to America like she did, and she knows how to help them deal with that yearning of home.

“As the youngest in my family when I came to play, I had to grow up really fast,” she said. “I had to learn how to make decisions quick. It’s good that I have been in their shoes. I know they are far away from home. We can prevent a little of that homesickness. We get them involved in the community so they are not isolated from family support. We have to overcome the language barrier, so I don’t let them use any other language but English on the court and in the classroom. That is what they need to learn. When they go on from here, they might not be where you have the support system we have. So you have to overcome the language barrier. You have to speak English.”

Thais took, and passed, her citizenship in August with a perfect score, pulling in all her resources of friends and faculty to help make sure she could answer every question on the test.

And in October, she was sworn in as a citizen of the United States.

“It’s a very neat ceremony,” she said. “You talk about your rights and responsibilities of being an American citizen where you can be the person you want to be. The American Dream allows you to be that person. I am honored to become a citizen.”

As a coach and teacher, Thais was very familiar with saying the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to the National Anthem.

“Now it has a different meaning,” she said. “Now it is my country, and I am defending my country. It is a part of who I am now.”

She is still Brazilian, too, but being American is just as important to her.

“They told us, ‘Don’t forget your culture, but embrace this culture, too,’” she said. “I am 50 percent American, 50 percent Brazilian. This country has given me opportunities I never would have had. I am very appreciative. Yes, I knew the words. At Liberal High School, I said the Pledge of Allegiance hundreds of times in fourth hour. But now it has a new meaning. It is my country I swore to defend, and I am proud of it.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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