Citizen Elect Omopariola
Colleagues team up to help Boeing man reach dream
BY RONALD BLISS
To Yinka Omopariola, the greatest compliment anyone has yet given him is to call him "Citizen Elect." His colleagues say he deserves it.
Thanks to the help of fellow Boeing engineers, Omopariola will officially shed the "Elect" portion of that compliment in August. He and his wife, Pauline, will be sworn in as naturalized U.S. citizens during ceremonies at the federal courthouse in Wichita, Kansas.
Omopariola first arrived in North America from Lagos, Nigeria, after being selected as a visa lottery winner. An annual U.S. visa lottery is commonly held in many countries worldwide and is targeted to people who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
The winners, chosen randomly, can get a visa and are allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18.
Despite Omopariola's thrill at making America his new home, life was not easy after he arrived in Wichita in November 1995. Although he had a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Ife in Nigeria, he had to settle for a job as a janitor, because his employer was not convinced his engineering degree was accredited. He moved to another job and two years later landed a position as a machinist at Boeing in Wichita.
Still determined to be an engineer, he enrolled in classes at Wichita State University. After tests and classes verified his ability, he was admitted into graduate school in aerospace engineering, where he will complete his master's degree.
Omopariola also was determined to become a U.S. citizen. "You can come here with nothing, but you can be anything you want to be. I want my children to enjoy the freedom and beauty of America," he said.
To become a citizen, Omopariola had to learn about American history and the Constitution. He spent many hours studying and often took books and exam questions to work. He was now a Boeing stress engineer, and often asked his associates about America and its history.
Members of the 777 Thrust Reverser Integrated Product team decided they wanted to make sure Omopariola realized his dream of citizenship. Every week for more than a month, team members gave pop quizzes to Omopariola on questions he might expect to find in the exam.
Evelyn Brown, a 777 nacelle drafter, remembers how dedicated Omopariola was to learning facts about the United States.
"We would ask questions at lunch, and after he went over the material a number of times, his knowledge of American history became incredible," she said. On May 15, Omopariola took the exam and passed, correctly answering each of the six questions posed.
Omopariola also tutored his wife, Pauline, with information gathered from his engineering associates.
Omopariola's three children11-year-old Ayomide, 10-year-old Damilola, and 7-year-old Teniolawere born in Nigeria, but since their parents passed the test, the children too, will become citizens.
Omopariola grew up a member of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. He speaks
both English and Yoruba.
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