SBL Food and Nutrition Services Associate Sabrina Lewis was all smiles when her co-workers gathered to celebrate her proud achievement; she became a U.S. citizen.
“I got chills because it was a big deal,” Sabrina said about attending the naturalization ceremony in a federal courtroom in Peoria on August 26. “The words coming from the judge were beautiful and I got a little emotional. It’s a big day to remember and I’m very proud.”
Sabrina moved to the United States from Spain 14 years ago, after marrying her husband, Phillip Lewis, a U.S. Navy Sailor who was stationed on a Spanish naval base. “It was difficult at first because I did not speak English when I arrived, and the culture is so different,” she said.
Sabrina taught herself to speak English by watching TV, reading movie subtitles and asking her husband how to pronounce words. “It took me about eight months before I was able to have conversations,” she said. “The food was a big change for me too because I’m from the south of Spain and we cook a lot – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and life is much faster paced here, but I’m used to it now.”
After living in several states through the years, Sabrina is thankful to settle down with her 12-year-old daughter, Alicia, and husband in Mattoon. Her husband now works as a U.S. Navy recruiter in Effingham and she is grateful for her job at Sarah Bush Lincoln. Sabrina especially enjoys putting a smile on people’s faces while delivering meal trays to patients. “I like to come into the room with a positive attitude and make people smile – that’s what I like. I’m not a nurse, but a least I can help somehow,” she said.
Sabrina’s positive influence is definitely making a big impression on patients and coworkers. For her efforts, she was nominated for SBL’s quarterly Bravo! President’s award in June. “She shows up every day with a smile on her face and a true desire to make other people’s day better. She understands being a room service associate is not just delivering food to a patient, but being a bright spot in their day,” Food & Nutrition Services manager Jeff Pence said in his nomination letter.
Sabrina decided to apply for citizenship in June 2019 because it was time. “This country is where I’m making my life and I want to be a citizen,” she said. While she was a little nervous about the process, “my daughter helped me prepare for the exam. She was so sweet,” Sabrina said. To become a U.S. citizen, Sabrina had to demonstrate her knowledge of basic American history, geography and the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship, in addition to completing lots of paperwork, pay a fee and be interviewed.
“I’m very proud. I never thought my life would be here. My life changed 100 percent 14 years ago, but I’m proud of myself for learning not only the language, but being able to adapt to the culture and the people. Looking back, it’s like – wow, I did that!” she said.