- Associated Press - Sunday, May 13, 2018

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Home is not always where you lay your head at night or the house you grew up in. Sometimes you have to cross oceans to find it. Just ask David Crawley.

The Marshall University senior has traveled across the Atlantic and through the mountains of West Virginia to find his home, and the U.K. immigrant has made it Uncle Sam official.

“West Virginia never felt like home, but Huntington made it home,” Crawley said. “Seeing the people who genuinely care about this state and care about this country - it really made me fall in love with more than I already had. Or at the very least it made me realize my love … Coming to Huntington inspired me to become an American.”

Crawley, 23, moved to the northern panhandle of West Virginia from the United Kingdom in 2004 when he was 10 after his mother married a West Virginia man.

He said while he loved being in America, life in Hancock County never felt like home.

“It was isolating, especially coming as a young kid who didn’t have a choice,” Crawley said of being an immigrant. “I was teased for my accent a lot.”

Crawley found his way to Huntington by way of Marshall University.

“At Oak Glen (High School), I had a theater teacher named Kelsey Hayward,” he said. “He’s bombastic, phenomenal, a huge personality that I fell in love with. He was such a good teacher, and I wanted to become a teacher, and I thought, ‘If I want to become as good a teacher as he did, I need to go to Marshall University.’”

Crawley will graduate in May with a degree in secondary education with a specialty in social studies and a minor in history. Should nothing go awry, he will walk across the stage a son of Marshall as well as an American citizen.

“I haven’t gotten my letter yet, but the next swearing-in ceremony is April 30, so I should be in that group,” he said. Subsequent to this interview, Crawley found out his naturalization ceremony would be April 30, and he is now an American citizen.

Crawley said his time at Marshall has meant everything to him.

“I take ‘son of Marshall‘ very seriously,” he said. “I look at the John Marshall statue when I’m stressed or in times of emotional worry, and I see a calmness of John moving forward with the book of knowledge in his hand. Marshall University has something no other university has - it has such a tight-knit community. When you say ‘sons and daughters of Marshall,’ you legitimately mean it. I’m absolutely in love with the place.”

The current sergeant-at-arms of the Student Government Association, Crawley has served as a senator in SGA since joining as a freshman. He is also the treasurer of West Virginia Young Democrats and is the first immigrant to serve as president of the Marshall Young Democrat chapter.

“At my time at Marshall, I’ve probably registered between 300 to 400 students to vote because I can’t vote yet,” Crawley said. “When I go for the ceremony - hopefully at the end of next month - that will be the first time I’m eligible to vote. Democracy is such an important concept - having a say. When people say your vote means nothing, it’s such a poor point of view.”

Crawley, a self-described hardcore Democrat, said even Republicans should vote because the country doesn’t work if people don’t vote.

He said when he gets to cast his first vote in November, he is sure he will cry.

“I worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign in Ohio, and I went into the voting booth with my friend when he went to vote,” Crawley said. “I got to watch him vote, and I felt so bad that I couldn’t cast votes for those I worked hard for or my friends like Chad Lovejoy (Cabell County delegate). It feels bad when you are so involved but you can’t do the golden thing to participate.”

Crawley’s mother and younger sister, who is also a Marshall student, will join him in voting in November as they also passed their citizenship tests. His major and his passion combined, he didn’t have to study much for the test but he helped his mom study.

He did use it as a learning opportunity in his classroom during his student teaching experience, though.

“I took off my glasses, because I’m blind without them, and I would face the wall while they would have all the questions and answers on the board,” he said. “The teacher would scroll down and let them ask me the questions, and I would know all the answers. They all got super excited about that, and ask me how I could know that. ‘I’m an American, that’s why.’”

Crawley said the naturalization process is too expensive and too long. The waiting period he can understand, he said, but not the cost. It costs more than $600 to even apply.

“To be an American is sacred,” he said. “You can’t really describe it. It’s like a mirage. The harder you try to describe it, the less distinct it gets. But I believe it is sacred, and I don’t believe there should be that financial barrier.”

Crawley said West Virginia should be welcoming of immigrants, like him, who want to be here, especially as natives leave the state. Even with low teacher pay and living through a teacher strike, Crawley still wants to live and teach in West Virginia.

He said whether they are documented or not, native Americans need to realize immigrants want to be American.

“It’s a promise that we are going to be the best people we can possibly be,” Crawley said of being an American. “It’s a promise we will care about our community. It’s a promise that if there are people suffering where we are, we are going to lift them up and make sure they can succeed. I truly believe in the American Dream, that no matter where you are from or your socioeconomic status, if they fight and try hard enough they can be successful in America. That doesn’t mean they have to go it alone. The American promise is to help those that need it. That’s America to me. It’s a sacred promise.”


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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