Transy holds ceremony for 221 newly naturalized U.S. citizens

jwarren@herald-leader.comMarch 21, 2014 

When they called out the name of her old country, Peru, Jackie Garrido stood and raised both arms in triumph and pride at becoming a citizen of her new country, the United States of America.

"It's a very important day for me, because I've been waiting for this a long, long time," said Garrido, who now lives in Lexington.

She was one of 221 people, representing 69 different countries, who were made brand-new U.S. citizens Friday during naturalization ceremonies at Transylvania University's Haggin Auditorium.

For the purposes of the ceremony, U.S. District Court had to go into actual session at Haggin Auditorium, which temporarily became a courtroom for duration of the program.

Officials read off the former home countries of all the applicants as the program began. The new citizens waved American flags, cheered and shed a few tears at what was a life-changing moment for all of them.

Ana Maria Vivanco, who also is from Peru and now works in housekeeping at Transy, held up her shiny new citizenship certificate and summed it all up succinctly.

"I am very happy to become an American citizen," she said, "and happy to be part of Transylvania."

Eduardo Nino-Moreno and his wife, Rosi Ponce, both became U.S. citizens during the ceremonies. He is executive director of Transy's Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship. She is director of multicultural and international affairs at Midway College.

"It was very moving; my wife couldn't hold back a few tears," Nino-Moreno said afterward. "We could not be more proud."

Friday's citizenship applicants came from all around the globe: from Algeria to Yugoslavia, with Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Finland and Ukraine thrown in. Coming from numerous backgrounds, they were all united in one desire: to be American citizens.

Jackie Garrido said she came from Peru to America in 1998 seeking political asylum. Now, she works for the Lexington Public Library, assigned to the Village Branch on Versailles Road.

She said Friday was the culmination of a long process, the first step of which was gaining permanent residency status, which she did a few years ago.

"Now, this is the final step, to be an American citizen," she said.

It was such a big step that she struggled to explain all her feelings.

"I just want to say thank you to Hunter Presbyterian Church and to the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, which helped me through all of the process," she said.

Ana Vivanco said she arrived here nearly four years ago. She's been working at Transy about two years while also working toward American citizenship.

"It's amazing to become a citizen here, because this is where I work," she said.

Vivanco added, however, that she was taking Friday off to celebrate.

Eduardo Nino-Moreno worked internationally for the United Nations for 30 years. Afterward, he and his wife lived in Atlanta. He was a citizen of Uruguay; she was from Panama.

Shortly before moving to Lexington a few years ago, they decided to seek U.S. citizenship. Nino-Moreno, who had attended college in America, said it was a way to give back to this country.

"It has been a journey of gratitude," he said. "We could have relocated anywhere. But we chose America because we continue to look to the future. That's what this country does."

There were 11 citizenship applicants Friday from Canada and 23 from Mexico, which had the largest representation. No other country had more than seven.

The citizenship applicants, plus family members, friends, supporters and court officials, all but filled Haggin Auditorium.

Chief U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell, a 1977 Transylvania graduate and member of the Transy Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremonies. Courtroom proceedings can be grim, but this was one session where everybody was smiling.

Caldwell, whose great-grandparents were immigrants, compared becoming a naturalized citizen to the making of a patchwork quilt: many pieces coming together to form a single, colorful whole. She thanked the applicants for becoming part of "the fabric of American citizenship."

"Thank you," she said, "for enhancing the United States of America as your own country."

Jim Warren (859) 231-3255. Twitter: @heraldleader

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