50 people become U.S. citizens Wednesday

Students to witness naturalization ceremony

ST. JOHNS, Fla. – It's a dream many people have for a lifetime: becoming an American citizen.

Wednesday morning, that dream came true as 50 people from 47 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance in Northeast Florida.

More than 100 fifth-graders at witnessed the ceremony is at Cunningham Creek Elementary in St. Johns County.

That education component is something that's so important to Babacar Ba, something he values about this country as he becomes a U.S. citizen.

Babacar Ba grew up in Senegal, a small country on the West African Coast. He's the youngest of 10 siblings, raised by a mom who put education first and a father who was a diplomat.

"Big loving family and parents and school was the epicenter of our family," said Ba.

Taking a leap of faith at age 21, Ba pursued education opportunities in America and followed two of his brothers to America, leaving everything he ever knew behind.

"It was unknown and different culture, different language. At that time, I was studying english in high school but it was really text book learning not fluent as you need to be," said Ba.

Ba eventually graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison and made a few stops before joining EverBank in Jacksonville as a vice president in the operational governance area. A successful career that would have led him on a much different path in Africa.

"There are banks there but I can tell you the difference is going to be in the productivity. I think the U.S. is known for perhaps having one of the most productive work environment in the world perhaps and I think that's something that really keeps me here because I love it, hard work, get rewarded for it and its fun," said Ba.

After college, Ba reconnected with a high school friend from Senegal who also immigrated to the U.S. they married and now live in St. Augustine with their three young boys. He credits their loving support for making this long journey become a reality.

"Very thankful, very thankful and feel very lucky and humbled because there are millions of people who want to be in the same situation and I definitely realize that I'm very thankful for the support," said Ba.

Ba's wife is also becoming a U.S. citizen, taking the oath at a ceremony one week after him..