Toronto

Ontario school celebrates 'very special moment' their caretaker became a Canadian citizen

Julio Parra, a caretaker at Queen of Heaven Catholic Elementary School in Milton, Ont., has lived in Canada for 15 years and after a delay brought on by the pandemic, officially became a citizen Tuesday.

Julio Parra has lived in Canada for 15 years and officially became a citizen Tuesday

Julio Parra, a caretaker at Queen of Heaven Catholic Elementary School in Milton, Ont., is celebrated at the school by students and staff on Tuesday after receiving his Canadian citizenship. (Kaylyn Dorland)

When Julio Parra, a school caretaker in Milton, Ont., received his Canadian citizenship on Tuesday, he was expecting a relatively quiet return to work. 

Instead he was met by students and staff from Queen of Heaven Catholic Elementary School, decked out in red and white, holding Canadian flags.

Behind them was a large hand-made banner reading, "So now you're a Canadian, eh!"

After living in Canada for 15 years, Parra's citizenship was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the school wanted to do something special to celebrate.

"It was a big surprise today," he said. "[The students had] small gifts and hugs for me. All the students were very happy … it was very, very nice."

WATCH | Students and staff surprise beloved school caretaker with citizenship celebration:

Students and staff surprise beloved school caretaker with citizenship celebration

12 months ago
Duration 1:03
When Julio Parra, a school caretaker in Milton, Ont., received his Canadian citizenship on Tuesday, he was expecting a relatively quiet return to work.

Staff and students rallied to celebrate

Teacher Kaylyn Dorland helped organize the celebration after hearing from Parra that his citizenship ceremony would take place Tuesday. Students and staff wore Canadian colours and presented Parra with celebratory posters and cards to mark the special occasion. 

"We knew we had to do something to celebrate this momentous occasion," Dorland said. "We just knew we wanted to make it a very special moment for him."

Parra, who is originally from Colombia, said he is very happy to officially become a Canadian citizen, describing the country as nice, secure and full of opportunities. 

He said receiving citizenship is "very important for me."

Parra has worked at the school since it opened eight years ago. Dorland said he has become a rock for the school in that time.

"He is a very selfless man that has dedicated a lot of his time taking care of our school."

A congratulatory banner made by students was just one of the surprises Parra found upon returning to school from his Canadian citizenship ceremony. (Kaylyn Dorland)

Celebrating Parra, Dorland said, was just the right thing to do. 

"We're just so blessed and lucky to have him," she said. "I'm happy that he's getting recognized for such a special day." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tyler Cheese reports for CBC Toronto. You can contact him at tyler.cheese@cbc.ca or @TylerRCheese on Twitter.

With files from CBC's The National

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