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Heidelberg hosts naturalization ceremony for 50 new U.S. citizens




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Tiffin, Ohio — 50 individuals from 25 countries were sworn in as new U.S. citizens at Heidelberg University’s Wickham Great Hall on Wednesday.

The naturalization ceremony was hosted by Heidelberg University for the first time and coordinated by Ashley Helmstetter, assistant vice president of University Advancement and Alumni Affairs and HYPE Career Ready. The event had strong representation by Heidelberg students and staff.

Judge Jack Zouhary of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division administered the Oath of Citizenship to the new citizens.

President Rob Huntington welcomed the new citizens, stating that “It’s great to bring this ceremony to Heidelberg. It’s a huge honor for us.” He appreciated the symbolism of coming together as one United States of America. Heidelberg was formed by immigrants, and Huntington shared his own personal family history of bringing home his son, Aidan, whom he and his wife, Susan McCafferty, adopted from Russia nearly 21 years ago. 20 years ago, the family went through the naturalization process for Aidan.

In his remarks after administering the Oath of Citizenship, Judge Zouhary spoke about the extraordinary opportunities and possibilities available to new citizens in the United States. Four of the newly naturalized citizens shared their personal journeys to reach this day, and their stories were emotional and impactful.

One woman, a preschool teacher who came to the U.S. from Syria, spoke about the challenges of arriving in the U.S. about five years ago and how she is now unable to return to her homeland. “This is my home now, proudly,” she said. Another gentleman arrived in the U.S. in 2015 as an international student and enlisted in the U.S. military for the opportunity to serve his new country.

Hoa Nguyen, Heidelberg’s vice president for Administration and Business Affairs, delivered the keynote speech. He is a naturalized citizen from Vietnam, arriving in the U.S. as a refugee in 1975, just after the fall of Saigon. Hoa said that he did not speak the language when he arrived, and life was full of challenges, but it was also full of opportunities. Hoa and the immigrants who have come before him set their sights on turning those opportunities into the American dream. “As immigrants, we have made our marks on this great country, and that is how the United States of America – our nation – is enriched,” he said.

Heidelberg students and staff also played a key role in the ceremony. Sophomore Olivia Huffman delivered the official Opening and Closing of the Court. Senior Daniel Orozco, who hails from Bogota, Colombia, read a poem, “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and cast onto a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. ‘Berg sophomore Siera Octaviano led The Pledge of Allegiance, which was the new citizens’ first official act after taking their oath. Finally, the Chamber Singers, under the direction of Dr. Greg Ramsdell, performed The National Anthem and America the Beautiful.

Ashley Helmstetter hopes that Heidelberg will forever be in the rotation for future naturalization ceremonies. “Never having witnessed a naturalization ceremony in my almost 40 years of life, I thought, ‘What an impact this could make for our students in their younger years, to really understand what our country offers from a completely different perspective,’” she said.

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