TIFFIN — Fifty individuals from 25 countries were sworn in as new U.S. citizens by Judge Jack Zouhary of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division.
The naturalization ceremony took place in Heidelberg’s Wickham Great Hall – the first time the university has served as a host.
“The event was more meaningful than I ever imagined,” said Ashley Helmstetter, assistant vice president of University Advancement and Alumni Affairs and HYPE Career Ready. “Never having witnessed a naturalization ceremony in my almost 40 years of life, I thought, ‘What an impact this could make for our students in their younger years, to really understand what our country offers from a completely different perspective.’”
President Rob Huntington said he appreciated the symbolism of coming together as one United States of America.
“It’s great that all of you decided to become citizens of the greatest country on Earth,” he told the honorees.
He also shared a bit of history about Heidelberg, which was formed by immigrants, and his own personal family history of bringing home his son, Aidan, whom he and his wife, Susan McCafferty, adopted from Russia nearly 21 years ago. Twenty years ago, the family went through the naturalization process for Aidan.
“That is a day we will always cherish,” Huntington said.
Zouhary administered the oath of citizenship.
“Whatever our place in society, we belong to and believe in a place of extraordinary opportunities and possibilities where miracles happen,” he said.
Four of the newly naturalized citizens spoke about their personal journeys.
One woman, a preschool teacher who came to the U.S. from Syria, spoke about the challenges of arriving in the U.S. five years ago, and how she is now unable to return to her homeland.
“This is my home now, proudly,” she said.
Another man arrived in the U.S. in 2015 as an international student, intent on “grabbing more opportunities and having more constitutional rights.” Joined in the U.S. by his parents and spouse, he enlisted in the U.S. military for the opportunity to serve his new country.
The keynote speech was delivered by Hoa Nguyen, Heidelberg’s vice president for Administration and Business Affairs. He is a naturalized citizen from Vietnam, arriving in the U.S. as a refugee in 1975, just after the fall of Saigon.
“I did not speak the language (when I arrived),” Nguyen said. “Life was full of challenges and I took every one of them seriously. But it was also full of opportunities.
“As immigrants, we have made our marks on this great country, and that is how the United States of America – our nation – is enriched,” he said.