For the first time in 12 years as an educator, Yuri Hronsky taught — and actively participated in — American civics.
The Ilan Ramon Day School principal voted for the first time as an American citizen Tuesday.
"I wanted to be an example to my students and my children," said Hronsky, who came to the United States from his native Canada in 2001. "It was time to fully engage and practice what I preach."
Hronsky had been living in the U.S. as a legal resident for more than a decade with his wife and three young children — all born in the United States — when he decided to become a citizen.
He participated in Canadian elections, casting his ballot from afar until a few years ago, when he realized he didn't know or recognize the candidates.
"It was one of those moments around the dinner table with my wife and some friends when they were all saying, 'You know more about the candidates and issues [here] than we do. When are you going to get this done?'"
So after an eight-month process, Hronsky and "9,000 of my closest friends" were sworn in as American citizens at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
"It was really quite touching to be in a room with so many people all at the same time," he said. "We were all in a large, massive setting that's somewhat impersonal, but it kind of felt intimate."
His students at the Agoura Hills Jewish day school and their families had been following his journey through the citizenship process and participated in exercises at school to teach the students about democracy and American politics.
"We don't dive deeply into [the candidates and their platforms], but it's our job as educators to help them understand what they're seeing going on around them," he said.
"We teach the students to have a voice, to engage and to pursue it," he said. "That's what makes this country so great in many ways; that we can do it and teach it freely."