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Students Take Selfies With Pope Francis At East Harlem Catholic School

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- With an enthusiastic crowd of young and old snapping pictures and selfies, Pope Francis arrived to much fanfare at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem on Friday afternoon.

Pope Francis Visits Our Lady Queen Of Angels School
A girl takes a selfie with Pope Francis outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem on Sept. 25. 2015 (Credit: CBS2)

A line of children shrieked and chanted "Holy Father, we love you!'' as he made his way along a barricade outside the school.

A beaming pope blessed them, shaking hands and posing for a few selfies. Some children embraced him, but a security guard intervened when one girl gave him a big hug.

"It was insane. He walked in and I was, 'Hi, nice to meet you,' and I just casually lifted my phone up, 'Can I have a picture please?'" Veronica Depaul, a Catholic school student in Goshen, told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond.

Pope Francis Visits Our Lady Queen Of Angels School
Pope Francis greets guests upon his arrival at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem on Sept. 25, 2015. (Credit: Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)

Some have called this the pope's most important stop in New York City, as the school serves an economically struggling and mostly immigrant community.

Even days before the pontiff touched down in the U.S., students were already planning to camp out outside the school just for the chance to see him.ah

PHOTOS: Pope Visits East Harlem School

But a group of 24 third- and fourth-grade Catholic school students got the chance to be in the very same room as the pope, singing for Francis himself.

The group represents four Catholic schools in the city, each child picked from a drawing.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, he's here! I'm so excited. I'm so nervous!'" Logan Colon, 8, from St. Ann's, told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

"When he patted me on the head, I felt special," said Essa Nahshal. " ... I'm going to remember this forever and ever."

"I felt like literally my head dropped all the way to my toes," said Ngueubou Kamwa, who attends Our Lady Queen of Angels. "And I like actually cried."

"He said to pray for him. And I hope everybody does," said Victor Franco of St. Paul's School.

Pope Francis took time to walk around the classroom and greet each individual student. As he circulated around the room, the children each described projects they were working on.

On a smart board, two young students pulled up a message for the pope that read "We also thank God for the gift of having you as our pope." The message was also written in Spanish.

East Harlem Residents Excited For Pope Francis Visit

Ahead of the pope's arrival, the students expressed their excitement Friday.

"I was running around my house saying, 'Yes! Yes! I'm going to meet the pope,'" said fourth-grader Nicholas Marronaro. "It's so amazing!"

"I was jumping up and down on my bed. My stomach started getting mushy," said 9-year-old Ngueubou Kamwa. "I couldn't sleep."

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"I am super excited. I need something to calm me down, that's how excited I am," Justin Blanco, who attends St. Ann's School, told WCBS 880's Diamond.

Our Lady Queen of Angels serves a working class of a mostly immigrant community in East Harlem, which is why Principal Joanne Walsh said Pope Francis chose to go there.

"He's sending the message that everyone is important," Walsh said.

Students At East Harlem School Excited For Papal Visit

The pope is an Argentinian who was born to Italian parents, an experience many at the school can relate to.

"As an immigrant, he understands how my parents suffered coming to the U.S. and working for a better life," said Jailene Sinchi.

In his remarks at the school, Pope Francis offered advice to students who have immigrated to the U.S.

"Even though I know that it is not easy to have to move and find a new home, new neighbors and new friends," the pope said, "the good thing is that we also make new friends, we meet people who open doors for us, who are kind to us. They offer us friendship and understanding, and they try to help us not to feel like strangers, to feel at home."

The pope went on to say that school can become a second home, a big family with opportunities to learn from one another.

Web Extra: Full Text Of Pope Francis' Remarks To East Harlem Students

Pope Francis also recalled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous words as he spoke.

"His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities. His dream was that many children like you could get an education," the pope said. "It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them."

The pontiff said in today's world it is important to keep dreaming.

"We celebrate all the opportunities which enable you, and us adults, not to lose the hope of a better world with greater possibilities," Francis said.

Residents in the area were also excited about the pope coming to their neighborhood.

Yolanda told CBS2's Dave Carlin she waited all day to see the pope outside of the school, but it was well worth it.

"I was very excited, very blessed, and I was waiting all day long to have the opportunity to see him," she said. "I think he's great because he doesn't see nationalities; he just wants to keep us together."

"I think people right now are changing their moods to giving instead of taking," resident Juan Lopez told 1010 WINS' Rebecca Granet. "A few days ago, somebody gave me bread, and I said I'm not going to eat this bread, so I went in the street and I gave it to a guy."

Before heading to the school, the pope addressed the United Nations General Assembly and visited the 9/11 memorial and the National Sept. 11 Museum for an interfaith service.

Later in the day, he participated in a processional drive through Central Park and a Mass for thousands in Madison Square Garden.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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