Jhonna a life guard becoming an American citizen
May 17, 2021

Staff spotlight: the Y’s role in a lifeguard’s Filipina-American immigration story

For Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is sharing stories about how the Y shows up for our API families, and in turn, how API staff and members enrich our Y community.

This week, we’re featuring Jhonna Rosemeyer, a lifeguard at the Hastings Lake YMCA and Filipina-American immigrant who recently became a U.S. citizen. Here’s her story:

When Jhonna Rosemeyer took her oath ceremony this April to become a U.S. citizen, she felt as though she crossed the finish line of a long but fulfilling journey. Only five years old when she moved from the southeast Asian island nation of the Philippines to the U.S., Rosemeyer grew up navigating American culture, the immigration system, and the ways in which she felt different from her peers—often at the same time.

“While there were moments when my situation felt very isolating, completing the immigration process is an experience that I am extremely thankful for,” Rosemeyer said. “This journey has helped me become more empathetic toward the struggles of others and is why I do my best to take advantage of every opportunity given to me now.”

Rosemeyer brings this empathy to her role as a lifeguard, keeping swimmers safe and contributing to the “supportive community and welcoming environment” she herself found solace in during the three years she’s worked at the Hastings Lake Y.

“Having communities where you can feel a sense of belonging is very important, and it’s clear that the Y makes this a priority,” Rosemeyer said. “Something I admire most about the organization is its commitment to diversity and being accepting.”

Rosemeyer’s advice for those embarking on their own immigration journey is to stay the course, find a support network, and, most importantly, continue to embrace your culture. 

Reflective of the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility, Rosemeyer serves as an example—at the Hastings Lake Y and beyond—of how perseverance and community can transform lives.

At her naturalization ceremony, Rosemeyer recalls the officiating immigration judge delivering a meaningful call to action: “The judge urged us to not lose ties to our cultures after attaining citizenship, and that diversity makes our country richer as a whole. I aim to relay this same message to others, especially in my Y community.”