Sharrel Pinto arrived in the United States from India in 1999 already trained as a pharmacist.
She was told that her training would be better served here, so she began work on a master’s degree at the University of Toledo.
But she did not have the money to complete her education, and her job at Wendy’s was only earning her $50 a month. She went to the pastor at her church, desperate for a place to stay. Maureen Loutit offered Ms. Pinto her home.
“She needed a home,” Ms. Loutit said. “She needed somebody to love. She needed an egg salad sandwich.”
There, Ms. Pinto met her husband, Ms. Loutit’s son, Grant. Both were at the UT Law Center as Ms. Pinto became a U.S. citizen Monday morning.
“I felt a mix of a ton of different emotions,” she said. “I’m very, very happy to finally become a citizen. I’ve lived here almost the same amount of time that I’ve lived in my original home, which is India, so this is my adopted home.”
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Helmick of the Northern District of Ohio presided over the ceremony, and administered the oath of allegiance to 85 new citizens, coming from 37 different countries.
“To our new citizens, I say that by having achieved this honor, you know more about civics and matters of our government, I’m sorry to say, than most of your fellow citizens,” Judge Helmick said. “It gives us hope now that you have joined us now as citizens. Educate your fellow Americans. Do it tactfully, do it respectfully, about the rights that we all share.”
The ceremony included a speech from Agnieszka McPeak, a UT law professor and Polish immigrant who came to the United States with her family. She said her father, a political activist involved in the Polish Solidarity movement, was given the choice to remain a political prisoner or leave the country, so they did the latter.
“As I look out today at this room, I can’t help but think of the collective courage in this room, because it takes a lot of courage to leave the country of your birth, to leave where you live, to emigrate to a new country and start over,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you came here for family, or for work, or because you had to flee something. Everyone here has displayed an enormous amount of courage to be where you are today.”
Mohamad Younes, 34, a Palestinian who arrived in the country with Lebanese citizenship, became a citizen this past July 4th. He was in the room to watch his younger brother, Sam Younes, 24, who graduated from UT in December 2015, become a citizen.
“Over here, you have your rights as a human being,” Mohamad Younes said. “You can be all you can be.”
“This is awesome, honestly,” Sam Younes said. “It’s just going to give me so many more opportunities in my life...I consider myself one of the very lucky people because a lot of people would dream of something like this, of having the same amount of rights and freedom and ability to work, to do whatever you want.”
Their younger brother, Omar Younes, is a current UT student who has been in the United States for 3.5 years. He is already looking forward to his own naturalization ceremony in the future.
“It feels so good. I’m so happy for them,” Omar Younes said. “I feel excited for me when I get citizenship, so I can fulfill my dreams, too.”
The new citizens, who wished to be included, and their native countries, are:
Austria - Gottfriede Fuerst
Brazil - Chirley Lima Mulford
Burma - Aung Hlaing Bwa, The Su Hlaing
Cambodia - Sue Phinh Ly
Cameroon - Mongia Yenmoh Misom
Colombia - Nelson Javier Ramos
Croatia - Danijela Tomic
Cuba - Nurisbel Mecias Moll
Egypt - Nada Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed Ellaithy, Amal Saeed Elsayed Shahein
Ghana - Kwaku Nyame Opoku
Guinea - Thierno Ibrahima Barry
Honduras - Cindy Margarita Pacheco
India - Carol Hemantkumar Bhagat, Hemantkumar Manubhai Bhagat, Nilam Hemantkumar Bhagat, Raveti Mishr, Bimla Pandey, Mohan Chandra Pandey, Sharrel Lilly Helen Pinto, Monali Hitendrakumar Shah, Nutan Hitendrakumar Shah, Daljit Kaur Thind
Iraq - Sadeem Hazim Al Baghdadi
Israel - Irina Ilkanaeva
Jamaica - Chad Brenton Thomas
Japan - Aya Wasil
Jordan - Rawan Ahmad Abdelrahman, Hayat Ahmmad Samkari, Mallak Omar Shahin, Wissam Ali Younes
Kuwait - Entesar Ahmad Kalil Alwazaify
Laos - Sith Champada
Lebanon - Kozait Jawdat Elkhatib, Fatme Ahmad Mallah, Mohamad Ridha El Sayed, Mohammad Mahmoud El Sayyad, Noura Hamed Shaheen
Macedonia - Aleksandra Riley
Mexico - Oscar Omar De La Vega Arcos, Faviola Natalia Cardenas, Juana Almaguer De Veloquio, Jose Guadalupe Rendon Jimenez, Felipe Veloquio Sierra, Juana Maria Sherer, Eulalio Olvera Vargas
Netherlands - Iris Marlyn Beverhoud
New Zealand - Deborah Janice Smith
Nicaragua - Ruth Nohemi Torrez
Nigeria - Adepeju Risikat Adebanjo, Fikayo Folarin Falade, Damilare Emmanuel Olaleye
Pakistan - Salman Ahmad, Rahat Nazir
Panama - Elizabeth Shellabarger
People’s Republic of China - Juan Mei Huang, Sheng Lin, Yingbing Luo, Chending Wu, Andy Fenqun Yao
Philippines - Denmark Colli, Badenas Danzeisen, Rachel Colis Donoher, Amelia De Chavez Galera, Janeth Gabriel Jones, Norma Perariza Pelish, Vilma Ceguerra Ring, Joanne Magayanes Stykemain, Benjie Ann Dy Wieber, Luci Rose Dema Ala Wong, Arienne Borromeo Yanes
Syria - Georgette Alskaif, Dalal Al Hussin, Deena Bassili Semaan
Thailand - Nantana Biers, Piyawan Chapman, Pattraranarin Garland, Chawalit Sirichoktanasup, Kulaporn Sirichoktanasup
Togo - Yawo Epemon Avose
United Kingdom - Sarah Louise Seeley
Vietnam - Jackie Thi Hoang