Almost every weekday for the last 18 school years, Custodian Maricela Zamora has raised the American flag above Clark Middle School.
This week that responsibility took on new meaning.
Zamora, a longtime permanent resident of the United States, formally became a U.S. citizen Tuesday.
“I’m so happy,” she said.
Zamora was surprised Thursday by her colleagues, students and parents during a school pep rally.
Clark Principal Charese Duffey and Assistant Principal Amy Reed called Zamora to the center of the gym to honor her accomplishment, U.S. flags waving in the air. School Resource Officer David Russell presented her with the American flag that had flown over the school on the very day she became a citizen. Together, the group stood with their hands over the hearts for the playing of the National Anthem. Superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Katie Kordel and School Board Member Anne McCausland were on hand to congratulate her.
It was an emotional moment years in the making for Zamora.
She grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico, and moved to the United States with her father when she was 16 years old, settling in Frisco after a short stay in Michigan. She got a Green Card and went to work for Frisco ISD in the mid-1990s, serving as a custodian at Frisco High School. She was there when Clark Middle School first opened its doors to students in 2000. Dr. Waldrip was principal.
“She is the heart and soul of this school,” said Clark Secretary Jo Braley, who says Zamora is always eager to help and wearing a smile. “She is adored by everyone in the building.”
Zamora says she always wanted to become a U.S. citizen and knew that one day, she would.
Completing the process meant long hours reviewing facts about American history and government. Though Zamora isn’t always comfortable speaking English, she was determined to complete the oral examination in English. She admits, she was nervous.
“I studied and studied and studied,” she said.
On exam day, she needed to answer six of 10 questions correctly. She answered the first six questions correctly, including one about the original 13 colonies and Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence.
Now a proud citizen, she says she looks forward to voting in future elections.
“She feels now that she really is from here, that she belongs,” said Clark Special Education Aide Angie Barrientez, who helped translate Zamora’s words from Spanish to English.
Clark Middle School is her home.