Newest Citizens

19 take the oath during ceremony

The Inter-Mountain photos by Edgar KelleyCherylene Sanchez Dean is all smiles after being congratulated and receiving gifts from representatives during a Naturalization Ceremony Friday at the Jennings Randolph Federal Center in Elkins.

ELKINS — Nineteen people from across the world officially became United States citizens during a Naturalization Ceremony Friday morning at the Jennings Randolph Federal Center.

Thomas S. Kleeh, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, welcomed participants, family members and guests to the event. He told the new citizens how significant a day this was — not only for them, but for the court as well.

“This is our best day here and we can not say ‘thank you’ enough for letting us be a part of it, allowing us to say welcome to your new home, and congratulations,” he said. “For what you’ve done, the accomplishment you have achieved, it is a powerful and tremendous reminder to all of us that were fortunate to be born here and call ourselves Americans because of fate. I am thankful every year for this reminder and thank you all for providing that to me.”

Most of those who became citizens during the ceremony had spent many years trying to do so, including Natalie Kolson, who resides in Morgantown but is originally from the Czech Republic.

“This is a big day. I have been waiting close to eight years for this to happen,” she told The Inter-Mountain. “We’ve been working on this for a long time and we are so happy that the journey is finally over.”

Nineteen people from across the world were sworn in as U.S. citizens Friday during a Naturalization Ceremony at the Jennings Randolph Federal Center in Elkins.

Mohammed Abduallah Saleh Hassan Alhad, a native of Yemen, said becoming a U.S. citizen made him feel energized.

“I’m very excited and feel really great today that I am a citizen now,” he said. “It’s taken five years for this to happen to me and it feels good. Everybody here today has been so nice and I’m really happy.”

The 17 other individuals who became citizens alongside Kolson and Alhad were Cherylene Sanchez Dean, Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez, Jhy-Charm Soo, Kelly Tran, Valentina Victoria D’evito Morelli, Kerstin G. Sutton, Nikki Romana Clough, Ratchanee Bui, Alma Rosa Burgos Lacedelli, Yulan Wang, Wolfgang Palle, Lordedana Pinotti, Yuxin Wang, Arianne Ocol Hodor, Dulce Erenia Belmoro Poling, Gayle Elizabeth Pennington and Marta Mahewski.

The new citizens hailed from 14 different countries, including three from the Philippines, two from Canada, two from China, two from Italy, two from Mexico, and one each from the Czech Republic, Germany, Jordan, Nicaragua, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

The Reverend Mr. Raymond Godwin of the St. Brendan Catholic Church gave the invocation, while Boy Scout Troop 88 was in charge of the flag ceremony and led all those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was performed by Leithean “Thea” Kerns, a senior at Elkins High School.

A video presentation from President Joe Biden played during the ceremony to welcome and congratulate the new citizens, while Yokasta Gulliani represented U.S. Immigration Services. Daughters of the American Revolution representatives distributed American flags and pins to the recipients. Stephanie Ojeda, chief deputy clerk of U.S. District Court, Northern District of West Virginia, performed the oath.

Recognition of legislative representatives was conducted by Frank Jeziro, Todd Gunter and Rhett Dusenbury. Jeziro was there on behalf of Sen. Joe Manchin, while Gunter represented Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, and Dusenbury represented Congressman Alex Mooney.

West Virginia State Auditor John B. McCuskey served as the event’s guest speaker.

“When you live here and were born here, it’s easy to forget that there are people who would break down doors to get here,” McCuskey said. “Through our history the most important change is you. We started off with 500 people from England and now we are at 500 million strong.”


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