41 citizens became Americans today in Toledo

Naturalization ceremony at Toledo Central Catholic HS draws almost 1,000


Almost 900 students, teachers and school staff at Toledo Central Catholic High School celebrated today with 41 new citizens who officially became Americans at the school’s gymnasium today.

Another 200 people, mostly friends and relatives of the new citizens sat in chairs on the main floor of the gymnasium.

PHOTO GALLERY: New citizens naturalized

The audience’s energetic show of support rubbed off on the new citizens who ran excitedly through aisles of chairs waving small American flags after their names were called to approach the front stage where U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary waited to congratulate and present new citizens with their official documents.

Jorge Mario Upegui Betancur of Colombia was so excited he turned to the students, grabbed his own suit coat lapels and began performing an animated victory dance that resembled something a professional wrestler would do. After the dance, he pumped his fists in the air, turning to perform the same act for each section of the auditorium as students roared their approval.

For some, the ceremony was bittersweet.

Giezi Hernandez Izaguirre28, whose family is originally from Mexico’s Linares, Nuevo Leon, said the student’s show of exuberance made the ceremony special. The students were respectful and supportive, he said.

Mr. Hernandez, who now calls Pettisville home, said his biggest disappointment was that his parents didn’t attend the ceremony. The elder Hernandezes brought their family to America 18 years ago.

“My parents wouldn’t come today because they were afraid that immigration officers would be here and they would be caught and deported,” Mr. Hernandez said. “It makes me feel bad.

“They brought us here because we were struggling economically in Mexico. My mother worked for an American car factory and my dad drove a school bus and played in a Christian band. But we couldn’t get ahead. They sacrificed their lives for us.”

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