40 residents become US citizens at naturalization ceremony in Duval County courthouse

Dozens of Northeast Florida residents officially became citizens of the United States during a naturalization ceremony at the Duval County courthouse Wednesday morning.

A total of 40 residents swore their allegiance to the country during the ceremony – which is the final step in the naturalization process.

The 40 new citizens range in age 19 to 89 and are from 26 different countries including Afghanistan, Argentina, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Iraq and Venezuela.

Fernando Vale said it took him six years to get to this moment.

“I feel grateful to this country for being so nice to allow us to come here and build a new future for our families,” he said.

Veronika Schpak, who’s from Ukraine, started the immigration process in 2011 — 13 years ago.

“Feelings are mixed, but there’s a lot of feelings of being proud. Feeling excited of course, I think the most feeling is the feeling of gratitude, to finally being able to become a part of the country that I always dreamt to be a part of,” Schpak said.

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In addition to the new citizens, around 140 students from Bishop Kenny High School, Trinity Catholic School, and Christian Family Chapel attended the ceremony.

“Including students in our naturalization ceremonies provides the Court with a great opportunity to educate students about the time, effort, and perseverance needed to complete the process to become an American citizen,” explained Chief District Judge Timothy Corrigan.

According to officials, in addition to this naturalization ceremony, the Court and USCIS have partnered to host naturalization ceremonies at area schools, halftime at the Jacksonville Jaguars games, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp games, the City of Jacksonville’s World of Nations Celebration, and other locations in the community to allow the public to participate in the completion of an immigrant’s journey to citizenship.

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