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CEEL Site Supervisor Becomes U.S. Citizen

Gray’s Woods Elementary School already loved Antonio Rascon-Gato for who he is when it celebrated what he had become.


Rascon-Gato, the Community Education Extended Learning program site supervisor for Gray’s Woods, proudly gained United States citizenship on Feb. 2. A week later, to honor his accomplishment, the entire school held a surprise morning assembly for him. During the patriotic program, students and faculty wearing American flag stickers and waving small Stars and Stripes sang “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In addition, school librarian Libby Snyder read the picture book What Can A Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers.


“He is a special citizen of the GW community. He is kind, bright and thoughtful. We appreciate him because of all he does for the Wolf Pack,” Gray’s Woods Principal Kris Dewitt said. “He coordinates before- and after-school CEEL, runs our chess club, fills in as an emergency certified guest teacher, and assists at recess and anywhere he is needed in the building. He has wonderful relationships with students, staff and families. When we learned that he was becoming a U.S. citizen, everyone agreed that he deserved a special celebration and the planning for a surprise assembly began.”


A native of Spain, Rascon-Gato moved to America in 1992 and started as Gray’s Wood’s CEEL supervisor eight years ago. SCASD Community Education Coordinator Shannon Messick, who directs CEEL and witnessed Rascon-Gato’s citizenship ceremony in Philadelphia, said the assembly was “a testament to the impact he has on the Gray’s Woods community.”


“He has become a fixture in that building, known and adored even by students who do not participate in the CEEL program,” Messick said. “I've heard from families who said their students wanted to sign up for CEEL because they got to know Antonio during the school day and wanted to spend time with him after school, too.”


Messick added that Rascon-Gato’s “upbeat personality is contagious,” and that he “always has a smile on his face and a fist bump at the ready.”


“He's such a presence in the building, students advocated for Antonio to have his own office,” Messick said. “Their efforts were rewarded and he now has a desk front and center in the school's rotunda. Students are welcome to stop by and make a move in the current chess game, always set up and ready to take on the next opponent.”


But unlike with chess moves, Rascon-Gato didn’t see the surprise assembly coming after he completed the naturalization process to be a U.S. citizen. As the guest of honor, he watched the performances with a broad grin, basking in the moment with a room full of friends happy for him.


“This was a big step in my life that I was planning to do for a long time,” he said. “But in the end, this was the right time, and the CEEL and Gray's Woods family were the perfect set to share this moment with. They have become my extended family. I cannot think of a better place to spend my days than at Gray's Wood with students and staff.”


By Chris Rosenblum

Photos by Nabil K. Mark

Published Feb. 14, 2024