KAYSVILLE -- An emotional visit to Ellis Island, learning what freedom means and taking the American citizenship oath were all part of the Oquirrh Mountain Charter School's first Freedom Festival.
After watching a film on Ellis Island, student Kaeley Simonsen said she felt sad for those who had to leave their homes in hopes of finding freedom in America.
She had heard stories about her grandparents, who came through Ellis Island when they left Norway with high hopes of life in America.
"It was a sense of freedom for them," said Kaeley's mom, Heather Simonsen. "They were willing to stand in line because they knew it would be a better life than what they had experienced."
Fellow student Keiti Gilson also said she felt sad seeing what people had to go through to get to this country.
"I am happy there was something better on the other side."
Ellis Island was the first experience students and their families had in learning what people had to do to experience freedom.
Outside the school, flags were set up with signs showing the Ten Milestones of Freedom. Families walked along the path to read what had to be done to become a United States citizen.
They learned that immigrants, before they could become citizens, had to support the military, pray for America, recognize the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, understand their natural rights and recognize the U.S. flag as a symbol of patriotism.
Second-grader Kennedi Morris sat with her family to take a citizenship test before going inside to take the oath of citizenship.
"I learned freedom is not free. We have to fight for freedom," she said.
Braden Shill, the seventh-grade student representative on the student council, helped administer the written citizenship test.
"I think this is really cool. So many Americans don't know what it means to be an American," said Braden, who also learned something about present-day government. "I learned who the vice president is -- Joe Biden."
Following a patriotic performance by the school's choir, Grant and Kimberly Davis -- dressed as those who wrote the Constitution might have dressed -- administered the oath of citizenship.
As Kimberly Davis told of the blessings and freedoms Americans have, her eyes welled with tears.
Then Grant Davis read the oath and said, "This is the first time I had heard the oath of citizenship. It is impressive."
The ceremony impressed 11-year-old Jenna Connell.
"They were grateful and happy," she said of the immigrants. "They came for freedom, and here they have some freedoms."
Her 8-year-old sister, Alyssa Connell, said she learned to be more grateful for her life.
"I am happy and grateful for being an American citizen," she said.
Oquirrh Mountain Charter School is completing its first year of operation. The school, with more than 500 students in grades K-8, provides a history-centered curriculum that helps students become knowledgeable citizens.
The school's mission is to incorporate the study of American citizenship, said school director Joshua Bell.
"We focus on American heritage and American history," he said. "This (festival) is one way to break down the walls of the classroom. We match education with experience."