By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 16, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- 73 new United States citizens took an oath at a naturalization ceremony Thursday morning at the federal courthouse.
The group came from 33 different countries.
One new citizen, Muhammed Kahn, was medically trained in Pakistan, and came to the United States for his residency.
After living in Buffalo, New York, Kahn wanted to stay in the U.S. to help the under-served population with medical needs.
He has been working to become a citizen for almost 16 years and said the process helped him become stronger.
"It helped me a lot in mental and educational grooming. I heard a lot culturally, ethically, morally, and that has helped me to become a better person for sure. The process was long, but it was worth it," said Kahn.
Sergio Londono, another new citizen, is originally from Colombia.
His father came here when Londono was five years old, and years later, Londono joined him. He took ESL classes, and eventually found himself in AP English classes.
Londono now studies chemical engineering at TCC, and hopes to transfer to FSU.
"Honestly I thought about a lot of my family because the only person I have in the country with me is my dad. The rest of my family is in Colombia, my mom, my uncle," said Londono. "So it was more like, we did it!"
Londono said his experience was not as difficult as some he has heard of, but encouraged others to trust the process.
"When you quit, that's when you lose. Just give it your all, you make it here," said Londono.
During the ceremony, each new citizen received the microphone to introduce themselves, name their country of origin, and speak about how they felt about becoming a citizen.
Londono said he has always felt accepted here. He hopes for the rest of his family, including his mother and brother, to one day join his father and him in the U.S.
Judge Charles Stampelos welcomed citizens to the "family" during the ceremony, offering some friendly advice about new rights.
"You're always encouraged to vote," said Judge Stampelos. "But if you don't vote, don't complain!"
His remarks were met with laughter by the new citizens.
Donatta Nemecek was emotional after the ceremony.
"It took about 15, 16 years, the whole process," said Nemecek, who attended school in Apalachicola.
She thanked her parents.
"It's a long process but it's totally worth it. It's freedom, it's the pursuit of happiness, your dreams come true. It's everything. It's life," said Nemecek.
Some of the countries of origin of the new citizens include Brazil, Cuba, Cameroon, India, Philippines, Egypt, South Africa, Romania, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, Vietnam, Columbia, Germany, China, Taiwan, Russia, Trinidad & Tobago, the United Kingdom, Guatemala, El Salvador, Iran, Jordan, Canada, Hondruas, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Pakistan and France.