Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 6, 2013

Gaining citizenship leaves student speechless


CNHI

— SOMERSET, Ky. — Nasrat Amarkhail was left speechless. Not a word.

The students who filled the auditorium were quite the opposite, cheering and screaming at the top of their lungs.

Then Amarkhail, choking with emotion, moved toward a microphone. His words were few but powerful.

“Since the day I’ve been here, I’ve been treated like a king,” said the high school senior, whose parents proudly looked on. “That’s all I can say.”

The Somerset High band struck up “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the students again erupted in celebration. Born in Afghanistan, Amarkhail had recently become an American citizen. And it was time for a celebration.

It all was such a big change from his early days when he was living in Kabul. About six years ago his family had an opportunity to move to the United States and since then his feet have been firmly planted in Kentucky soil.

“I wanted to become a U.S. citizen because it’s very safe for me — I feel safe here,” said Amarkhail, now a high school senior. “This is where I want to stay.”

The Naturalization process is a “big responsibility” but Amarkhail came to realize he wanted to become an American, not just live in America.

When the family first touched down in the United States years ago they were intially headed to California. That changed when Zabihullah Khyber, a friend, passed along a key piece of advice.

“His friend told him that if you want to live in a place where you can take care of your children, get good education, be around good people, you should definitely come to Somerset,” said Nas Amarkhail, “so that’s one reason why I came here.”

Education was valued in Afghanistan, but because of ongoing wars just going to school was dangerous, his father said.

Amarkhail has done well in his classwork and his future looks promising. “He’s just a fine young man from a really good family,” said Somerset principal Wes Cornett. Amarkhail wants to be a doctor and “he probably will reach that goal easily,” Cornett said.