Middlebrook teacher becomes U.S. citizen

The evening of Monday, Sept. 18, Middlebrook world language teacher Simon Bulenzi became a United States citizen.

Born and raised in France, Bulenzi came to the United States in 1995 to study comparative literary and cultural studies at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Before joining the Middlebrook faculty in 2003, Bulenzi worked as a teaching assistant at UConn for a few years, taught at Avery Point at UConn and worked as a long-term substitute teacher at Weaver High School in Hartford for almost a year.

After getting his green card about five years ago, Bulenzi said, he had to wait another five years to apply for citizenship. He did that this past January.

In order to become a United States citizen, Bulenzi said, he had to take a test, be interviewed and undergo a criminal background check.

The citizenship test isn’t easy, he said.

“Basically, they give you 100 questions about American government, civics and history,” said Bulenzi, such as:

  • Who was the president during World War I?

  • How many representatives are in the House of Representatives?

  • When was the Constitution written?

“They pick 10 of those questions and you have to pass six,” he said.

“If you don’t study, it’s really hard to pass. I asked a lot of my friends who have lived here their whole lives and they said they couldn’t pass it.”

After the citizenship test, Bulenzi said, he was interviewed for about 40 minutes and then underwent a background check.

“I did the fingerprint for that on Valentine’s Day,” he said.

“I had to go to Port Chester, N.Y., where they did my fingerprints and took a picture of me. They had to do a whole FBI check of basically my life since I’ve been here.”

About seven months later on Monday, Sept. 18, Bulenzi and 47 others took the Oath of Allegiance in Hartford and became full United States citizens.

Although he’s been in the country for more than 20 years, Bulenzi said, “now I feel like I truly belong here.”

As a citizen, Bulenzi said, he now has the right to vote — something he couldn’t do with just a green card.

“You also can’t run for federal office [with a green card],” he said. “I learned that from those 100 questions.”

Bulenzi, who has lived in the Georgetown section of Redding for about five years, said his desire to become a United States citizenship stems from childhood.

His father worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and was “really good friends” with Maine Gov. James Longley, said Bulenzi.

“When I was little, his daughter, Susan Longley, came to live with us in France,” he said. “She was my nanny and she told us about America and how wonderful it was.

“I was fascinated growing up, learning about Maine and the United States.”

Around the time he was born, Bulenzi said, his father had planned to do graduate work at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), but “decided to take the job in Paris” instead.

“He felt like it was a missed opportunity for me to live here,” said Bulenzi, “but I’m very, very happy and grateful that I grew up in France.”

While he wouldn’t change having grown up in France, Bulenzi said, he is happy to now be a United States citizen and share French culture with his students at Middlebrook.