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.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.