Friday, March 18, 2022

Raymond resident overcomes obstacles in becoming a United States citizen

Merary 'Mae' Plummer of Raymond
became a citizen of the United States
earlier this month in a Naturalization
Ceremony in South Portland. She
is grateful to the staff at the 
Windham/Raymond Adult Education
for helping her prepare for her
citizenship exam and to improve
her language and communication
By Lorraine Glowczak

Merary “Mae” Paredes Plummer, originally from Honduras and now living in Raymond, officially became a United States citizen on Thursday, March 1 in a quiet, low-key Naturalization Ceremony – an event that is normally attended by supportive family and friends. However, because of the pandemic, the ceremony that took place in South Portland was limited in attendance to the new citizens and officials.

That didn’t stop Mae, her husband Daniel of 17 years, and their 16-year-old son Joshua from celebrating her journey in becoming a citizen with hugs and kisses. Her story from Honduras to Maine is filled with love and support while overcoming language barriers.

In 2004 at the age of 24 while still living in her Central American country, Mae decided to take the week off from work to join her cousin who was attending one of the many colorful and well-known festivals in Copan - an ancient Mayan city located along the Guatemalan border. Little did she know by attending that big event - it would change her life in a big way.

“I met Dan at the festival, and it was love at first sight,” Mae said. “The only thing is, we could not speak each other’s languages. We had to communicate through my cousin who lived in the U.S. for many years and knew how to speak English and Spanish.”

They moved fast romantically, despite the fact that her future husband’s vacation was nearing an end and had to return to Raymond and his life in Maine.

“Before I knew it, I was in a long-distance relationship with a man who lived over 2300 miles away from me,” Mae said.

While keeping in touch through letters and phone calls, Daniel and Mae worked fast to file the required paperwork so she could get her visa and move to Raymond. In the winter of 2004, Mae arrived in Maine where she could be with the man she loved and start a family. She does admit that first winter was quite a shock.

“I moved here with sandals, skirts and shorts in the middle of a Maine winter,” she said. “When I saw that people actually went outside in the winter, I could not believe it. I wondered how people could go out in the cold weather and enjoy it at the same time.” 

Mae explained she never wore pants before her life in Maine, as it was against her religion. It was a good friend who took Mae under her wing – taking her shopping and showing her how to dress during the winter months.

“Now when I visit my family in Honduras, I melt,” she said. “My parents make sure I have two fans and an air conditioner in my bedroom.”

What may be shocking for some is the young couple didn’t speak each other’s languages when Mae first arrived.

“We communicated through an interpreter,” Mae laughed as she recalled the early years.

Fast forward to today. It was during the pandemic that Mae’s visa expired. Due to the temporary closure of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices, Mae wasn’t able to renew her visa. It was through that experience that Mae decided to become a U.S citizen so she would not have to keep renewing her visa to travel back home.

To prepare for the U.S. citizenship exam and to improve her English communication skills, Mae, who works at Chipotle, applied to take courses at Windham/Raymond Adult Education. Through hard work, Mae passed the Adult Ed courses – and the citizenship test - with flying colors.

“We are extremely proud of all our students because we are well aware of the sacrifices they have to make and the challenges they have to overcome to fulfill their dreams of education and/or obtaining citizenship,” Adult Basic Education Coordinator, Catherine Renaud said. “In particular, Mae experienced a delay of two years from the time she submitted her application for the test until the time of scheduling of said test because of the pandemic. Like many of our students, Mae needs the in-person education experience. Once she received the notification of the test date, she had to advocate for herself at her place of employment to carve out time to devote to studying. She also picked up an extra class to work on improving her English communication skills.”

Renaud said that there has been an increase in ELL's (English Language Learners) as a result of the pandemic because Adult Education instructors have mastered virtual education.

“But for students like Mae, we are fortunate to have our own location separate from the crowds of the high school, so we can offer intimate, in-person instruction, sometimes hybrid with students "zooming" in from home. Again, we are so fortunate with the skills of our instructors to help us offer flexible schedules and modes of instruction.”

Mae is very happy to become a U.S. Citizen and to call herself a Mainer.

“I have always loved Maine – it’s beauty and the friendly people,” Mae said. “Plus, it is safer here than Honduras. And the economy is better – it is not good in my country. The government doesn’t help – if the government helped the people, they would be less apt to migrate here.”

Mae misses some things about Honduras.

“I miss the birds. We have all kinds of birds of many beautiful colors,” Mae said. “I miss my family and my church family. I miss the big community experience – of people, chickens, vendors with their loud speakers in the street – it is beautiful chaos.”

She also said that she’s very grateful to Windham/Raymond Adult Ed and would encourage other English Language Learners and/or those who want to become a citizen to take their courses.

“They did a great job and helped me obtain my dream,” Mae said.

If there are others who are hoping to gain their U.S. citizenship, please contact the Windham and Raymond Adult Education by perusing classes in their virtual catalog and register online: or call their office at 207-892-1819, ext. 2191 to ask for Catherine Renaud. One can follow Windham/Raymond Adult Ed on Facebook and Instagram.<

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