TUCSON (KGUN-TV) - Rosa Elena German Gardner was a little girl in Cananea, Mexico, watching KGUN9 with her twin sister and brother, dictionary in hand.
"We didn't have the chance, the economic means, to go to a bilingual, local school in Cananea," said Gardner.
She watched, learned, and translated the news for her father (a union worker) and her mother (a journalist).
"Laverne & Shirley, M*A*S*H, Bob Hope... I love him!" she recalls, smiling. Her favorite show was one that's hard for native-English speakers, Jeopardy. "Those are questions that make you think...Jeopardy was awesome."
Gardner went on to earn her teaching degree in Mexico, but something felt missing. She wanted to be a citizen in her dream city of Tucson, Arizona.
Years later, Gardner gets a green card, comes to the US, gets married, has children, and even teaches English in Sunnyside Unified School District.
In 2017, after watching a group of people take their Naturalization Oath on Independence Day, she made a commitment to herself -- Labor Day.
"All my paperwork ,all my immigration paperwork, I have done myself. I read. I am very cautious. I didn't pay a single dime or penny to do that," she said.
Following months of classes at Pima Community College on United States history and government, Gardner built a knowledge and appreciation for the US government, policies, and yes, even lawmakers.
"I really admire the people who are congress. I mean, lawmakers come up with all those decisions because they have to put everything together, all the pieces together to make it whole and to come out with something," she said. "It's not easy."
While she admits she's still working on perfecting the English idioms, Gardner is a grammar perfectionist who passed her tests with flying colors, becoming approved for a naturalization ceremony on September 1, 2017.
Dressed head-to-toe in red, white, and blue (earrings and nail polish included), Rosa Elena German Gardner fulfilled her personal goal of becoming an American citizen.
When asked by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild if anyone would like to speak following the ceremony at city hall, Gardner proudly raised her hand and spoke about her childhood dream to become a Tucsonan. An American.
"Not only watching American TV made me the person I am right now," she told KGUN9's Samantha Cortese, "Tucson was my dream city forever. I hardly knew about Tucson growing up, but I always wanted to be in Tucson. It took me almost my whole life to be here, but I am very proud."
Garnder is already thinking about her next goal. "I'm going to give to the community. That is important. Give something to the community. Don't take. Don't take. Give. Give to the community. That's what I would like to say."
Read Rosa Elena's speech here:
"Not long ago, and eight-year-old girl set a personal goal in which she promised herself she would learn the English language. Her parents did not have the economic means to send her to a local bilingual school, so she decided to use an American television, airing in her own native town, as a means of an English education.
She watched the channels 13, nine, and four. This broadcasted from a town she hardly knew, a town by the name of Tucson, Arizona. As a part of her repertoire, she recited to herself all the programming dialogue. Some of those shows included Bonanza, the Brady Bunch, and Sesame Street. Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martinwere among her favorites. As time passed, and that little girl grew into a young adult, her hard work and life journey brought her to her dream city of Tucson Arizona.
That girl is now standing before you, feeling proud to finally call herself an American citizen.
I can say that the American culture has run in my veins since the first time I fell in love with the English language. All those shows I watched as a little girl prepared me, in a way, for my life ahead - my life in this great nation. Those shows showed me that this country is the best place to live, and I knew it was where I belonged. I never imagined a goal that I set as an eight-year-old girl would turn into such a meaningful one, nonetheless come true.
I only have the words of gratitude for my parents, Jesus and Honora, who showed me the spirit of a fighter. For my sons, Francois, Rajiv, and Miguel, who are my pride and joy and make me feel honored to call them "mijitos." For my grandchildren Daniel, Alexandra, Adrian and Anahi, whose sweet voices call me Mama Grande. For my beautiful daughter-in-laws Elizabeth and Iris. For Dan, my life partner these last two years.
I also have gratitude for the Sunnyside school district for allowing me to fulfill my mission in life by providing me with a classroom and 63 wonderful students at Desert View High School; A classroom where I am able to teach them what I proudly learned on my own, the English language.
Finally, and last but not least, thank you Tucson! My dream city I call home, and can now call me your new citizen."