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Published: Saturday, 11/17/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

31 become Americans after taking citizen’s oath

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary congratulates Russian immigrant Andrey Aleksandrovich Mikhaylov on becoming a U.S. citizen. At his right is Karen Berman, Waite High assistant principal, and the keynote speaker for Friday's ceremony. U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary congratulates Russian immigrant Andrey Aleksandrovich Mikhaylov on becoming a U.S. citizen. At his right is Karen Berman, Waite High assistant principal, and the keynote speaker for Friday's ceremony.
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At first, he bowed politely at the judge.

But after waiting 87 years to become a U.S. citizen, Andrey Aleksandrovich Mikhaylov no longer could contain his emotions.

Trembling, he suddenly reached out and tightly embraced U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary, who moments earlier had administered the oath of citizenship during a ceremony at Waite High School on Friday afternoon.

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The emotional moment prompted cheers and applause from the hundreds of students and guests in the high school auditorium where the ceremony was held.

“This has been a longtime dream,” said Mr. Mikhaylov, who immigrated to this country from Russia in 1997 on a guest visa. “Finally, all the waiting is over.

“The only sadness I have is that my wife, Nina [who died three years ago], is not here. We dreamed of becoming citizens together.”

Thirty-one new citizens were sworn in Friday. They came from 21 countries, including China, Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, and Egypt.

The naturalization ceremonies are held at various northwest Ohio locations — including at high schools — which gives students a glimpse into the citizenship process, officials said.

Friday’s ceremony included brief comments from students and school staff. The Waite High School Orchestra performed several numbers, including the national anthem.

Assistant Principal Karen Berman shared her own immigration experience during her keynote address.

“My parents immigrated from Jamaica when I was 10 years old,” she said. “We left behind family and friends and our life. I was terrified. As a child, I shed tears.”

But, her parents’ decision to immigrate gave her a “great life with many opportunities.” Ms. Berman encouraged students to never take their citizenship for granted.

Judge Zouhary told the new citizens and students patriotism means more than “just waving a flag.” Patriotism is about believing in democracy, freedom, and displaying a willingness to accept people’s differences, he said.

“Your accents will add beautiful notes to the chorus of America,” Judge Zouhary said.

High school seniors Devanna Gilmer and Taylor Naus, said before the ceremony they had given little thought to the citizenship process.

“I think it’s good,” Ms. Gilmer said. “It’s important to admit new people so that we’re not all the same.”

About a dozen members of Ednita Clara Gonzaga Vaflor’s family attended the ceremony to show support for the matriarch of their clan.

The native of the Philippines is the last person in her family to acquire citizenship.

“It was cool to see my grandmother become naturalized,” said her 15-year-old grandson Christian Vaflor, born in in Marion, Ohio. “It was very patriotic.”

The new Americans and their native countries are:

Canada — Johnny Agustin Noritz, Nidia Yomar Noritz, Charmaine Annie Sharp

Egypt — Mohammed Saber Elnahal, Manal Mohamed Abou Youssef

Ghana — Malik Abdul Fuseini

India — Jitendrabhai Hargovindbhai Patel

Indonesia — Eddy Khumar

Jordan — Ali Mohammed Awwad, Suzan Ahmad Naief Dahmous

Laos — Sompasith Sinthalaphone

Liberia — Abraham Sherman Cooper

Mexico — Veronica Gloria Benitez, G. Lidia Uribe Hatfield, Inocencio Garcia Mendoza, Mario Israel Gordillo Reyes, Juan Antonio Sandoval

Nigeria — Deborah Ihuoma Arowolo

Pakistan — Abdul Rauf Zahid

Panama — Jorge Gustavo Cedeno Espinosa

People’s Republic of China — Cui Xiang Yu

Philippines — Mike Anthony Mata Pedong, Ednita Clara Gonzaga Vaflor

Russia — Natalia Olegovna Connolly, Andrey Aleksandrovich Mikhaylov

Somalia — Fatuma Ibrahim Barqadle

South Africa — Liza Black

South Korea — Sung Eun Park

Taiwan — Katherine Yu Han Liao

Tanzania — Richard Mutatina Nyonyi

Vietnam — Thanh Nguyen

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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