Antoine Nsang-O'Khan Kabwasa teaches humanities part-time at the University of Toledo and has involved himself in the African-American community in Toledo since 2000.
Yesterday, he said, was one of his proudest moments when he officially became a U.S. citizen.
Mr. Kabwasa, from the Congo in central Africa, and 31 other immigrants walked across the Rogers High School auditorium stage in celebration of their new citizenship.
"I wanted to give back to this country all the things that I have learned," Mr. Kabwasa said. "I worked for the United Nations and have been in many parts of the world. This time, I'm trying to bring my experience to America."
U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary welcomed the new citizens as their families and Rogers students looked on.
John Foley, interim superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said the naturalization ceremony also highlighted the diversity of Rogers and the rest of the school district.
It was the first time a Toledo Public School has hosted a naturalization ceremony since Judge Zouhary moved the ceremonies out of the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Toledo last year to various area high schools.
"As a descendent of Irish, German, and English immigrants, I know about melting pots," Mr. Foley said. "Certainly, we know in this country that very few of us are natives, but all of us are one."
Maria Longley, a native of Argentina and a Spanish interpreter for U.S. District Court, told the new citizens that she grew up watching American films with subtitles. She started taking English classes and started to match up the words on the screen with what the characters were saying.
"Working as an interpreter has been a lifetime dream for me," Ms. Longley said. "Most of the films shown [in Argentina] came from Hollywood. I remembered that I really wanted to know what the characters were saying without reading the subtitles."
Ms. Longley said she not only works with U.S. District Court and other agencies, but now owns her own interpreter business.
"I have my own agency, and the job brings me so many rewards and satisfactions," Ms. Longley said. "This is really the land of opportunity. Your horizon is very broad and, if you persist, study, persevere, focus on your goal, you will succeed. All the tools are available for you to use."
Misael Martinez, a Spanish teacher at Rogers who came to the United States from Colombia to attend Bluffton University, said, "My fellow citizens, welcome to America the beautiful."
"[Becoming an American citizen] means there will be a lot of opportunities you want to take advantage of. In my case, education was the great opportunity. If you have education, and two or three languages, you are very powerful," said Mr. Martinez, who received a master's degree from the University of Toledo and taught there for three years before joining the Rogers faculty.
Ernesto Benavides Almaraz, a native of Mexico, speaking through interpreter Marsha Olivarez, called the ceremony and becoming an American citizen, "a very beautiful thing."
He said he had been working to get his citizenship for two years.
"Now, I will just try to take advantage of more opportunity," he said.
Those naturalized and their countries of origin are:
Bosnia-Herzegovina - Sucro Pekmez.
Canada - Edmund Michael Hearne.
Chile - Ana Maria Oyarce Novoa.
China - Rong Hua Guo, Xing Guo, and Xuegeng Zhu.
Colombia - Tatiana Kuhn.
Congo - Antoine Nsang-O'Khan Kabwasa.
Hungary - Aranka Ilona Toth.
India - Samuel Gnanamanickam Christopher, Ravindra Joshi, and Raksha Mehta.
Italy - Rita Cardone.
Jordan - Mohammad Mahmoud Alsmadi.
Korea - Kime Gurney.
Mexico - Ernesto Benavides Almaraz, Sonia Duran, Ramon Tierrasnegras-Esparza, Juan Isidro Guerrero Vazquez, and Maria Elvira Garcia Zamora.
Pakistan - Nausheen Hasan.
Philippines - Monie Jane Montejo Fennell, Maria Lagrimas Koenig, Dante Pesigan Miranda, Elenita Mendoza Miranda, and Rodriga Bulgado Stratz.
Russia - Elena K. Koretsky.
Serbia and Montenegro - Radovan Radosavljevic.
Syria - Mohammad Haidar.
Thailand - Apichat Phongtoop.
Vietnam - Quoc Bao Le and Ben Ngo Huynh.