JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A momentous day for 30 newly minted American citizens doubled as a civics lesson Wednesday at Wolfson High School.
In a first-of-its-kind ceremony for Duval County Public Schools, over two dozen candidates completed the final step in a lengthy process when they were sworn in as naturalized United States citizens.
One of the candidates, Christophe Jacques, was thrilled and said he feels different -- and yet the same.
"It's very special. It's pretty unique. It's been a long process. My family and I, we moved in the U.S. 19 years ago, so it's been quite an adventure,” Jacques said. “It's the culmination of a long process. I'm very amazed by this ceremony today. Something I wasn't expecting, very pleased with that. It's very very emotional all together."
The ceremony took place in front of more than 700 students, DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene and several school board members.
"When the students see how hard these new citizens have worked to become new citizens -- they've had to go through background checks and interviews and learn English, and so forth -- I think hopefully it will make them appreciate their citizenship even more and also challenge them to better American citizens,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan said.
Federal court has 10 naturalization ceremonies every year; but Wednesday's ceremony also doubled as a lesson in civics and the process to citizenship, which is rigorous, often taking several years to complete.
“It’s very special, and I feel like it’s more of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Wolfson student Jacob Gazaleh, whose own grandparents emigrated from the Middle East. “I’m third generation here. I know the hard work (my family members) put in (to become citizens) because I heard the stories personally. And now not from a personal standpoint, I get a better view of what it’s like to do this.”