When Julio Parra, a school caretaker in Milton, Ont., received his Canadian citizenship on Tuesday, he was expecting a relatively quiet return to work.
Instead he was met by students and staff from Queen of Heaven Catholic Elementary School, decked out in red and white, holding Canadian flags.
Behind them was a large hand-made banner reading, “So now you’re a Canadian, eh!”
After living in Canada for 15 years, Parra’s citizenship was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the school wanted to do something special to celebrate.
“It was a big surprise today,” he said. “[The students had] small gifts and hugs for me. All the students were very happy … it was very, very nice.”
WATCH | Students and staff surprise beloved school caretaker with citizenship celebration:
Staff and students rallied to celebrate
Teacher Kaylyn Dorland helped organize the celebration after hearing from Parra that his citizenship ceremony would take place Tuesday. Students and staff wore Canadian colours and presented Parra with celebratory posters and cards to mark the special occasion.
“We knew we had to do something to celebrate this momentous occasion,” Dorland said. “We just knew we wanted to make it a very special moment for him.”
Parra, who is originally from Colombia, said he is very happy to officially become a Canadian citizen, describing the country as nice, secure and full of opportunities.
🇨🇦❤️🙏🏼We are so blessed to have such a wonderful caretaker at <a href=”https://twitter.com/QHMilton?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@QHMilton</a> and today we celebrate his first official day as a Canadian citizen! 🙏🏼❤️🇨🇦<a href=”https://twitter.com/HCDSB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HCDSB</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/vankayak?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@vankayak</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Kk2JjdMzKR”>pic.twitter.com/Kk2JjdMzKR</a>
He said receiving citizenship is “very important for me.”
Parra has worked at the school since it opened eight years ago. Dorland said he has become a rock for the school in that time.
“He is a very selfless man that has dedicated a lot of his time taking care of our school.”
Celebrating Parra, Dorland said, was just the right thing to do.
“We’re just so blessed and lucky to have him,” she said. “I’m happy that he’s getting recognized for such a special day.”