By Dave Ongie, News Editor
In the Science Hill cafeteria, the smiling face of Claudia Rosselot is fast becoming a fixture.
Rosselot has worked for Johnson City Schools for about 15 years, providing food service at South Side School and Liberty Bell before moving to Science Hill about a year and a half ago. She can be found working the cash register most days, and when a long face comes her way, Rosselot delights in the opportunity to brighten up the day of a young person.
“Some of them come up and look sad,” Rosselot said. “When they look a little bit sad, you say, ‘It’s okay, the day’s almost over, give me a smile.’ A lot of them will say thank you, but you realize something is on their mind. I think it means a lot to the children.”
Often a student will complement Rosselot on her accent and ask her where she is from.
“I kind of joke and tell them, ‘I come here from Johnson City,’ ” she said with a laugh.
Rosselot was born in Germany, but moved to the United States on March 19, 1981 after marrying her husband John, who was stationed in her home country while serving in the United States military. She moved along with her husband to Kansas and Michigan before landing in Johnson City, where John was in charge of a local recruiting station.
The Rosselots fell in love with the mountains of East Tennessee, and John accepted a position in Science Hill’s JROTC program upon retirement from the military, allowing the family to put down roots. It was here where the Rosselots raised their family. Three of their children followed their father’s footsteps and served in the military with a fourth still at home.
From the moment Rosselot moved to the United States, she has felt deep ties to our country and what it stands for. At ballgames, she has always stood for the national anthem, and she has taken pride in watching her husband and children do their part to defend the United States.
But until recently, Rosselot had not taken the step of becoming a citizen of the United States.
“I was going to do it once before, but everyone said there’s a test and it’s so hard,” she said. “Last year I sat down and I said, you know what? I’m going to do it.”
For Rosselot, family ties helped spur her to start the process of gaining citizenship. Her husband passed away six years ago, and she wanted to honor his memory by becoming a citizen. Her oldest son served before receiving a medical discharge, another son is currently stationed in Iraq and her daughter is also currently enlisted in the military.
“I want my children to know how proud I am of them, and I want them to be proud of me,” she said.
So Rosselot traveled to South Carolina to get the process started last May, and went to Nashville last November to be interviewed and complete the citizenship test. She said she had to study 100 daunting civics questions knowing that she’d be asked 10 of them at random during her interview. If she failed to answer 10 correctly, her dreams of gaining citizenship would be put on hold.
Rosselot recalled that nerves got the best of her on the first question, but six questions and six correct answers later, her interviewer congratulated her on passing the test. All that remains now is taking her oath of citizenship at the federal courthouse in Greeneville, and that milestone is set for Feb. 13.
While Rosselot wishes her adult children were able to make it for the ceremony, her youngest son Tyler will likely be at her side. And when the oath is given, the smiling face that lights up the Science Hill cafeteria every day will glow brighter than ever.
“What it means to me is that you’re part of it,” Rosselot said. “You support everything the United States stands for. I always feel like if you don’t like something, then leave. It just makes you feel so proud of the accomplishment.”