New U.S. citizen shares long journey to cast her first ballot

65-year-old Jamaican native has been living legally in America since she was 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jennifer Grant has lived in the United States legally with her Green Card and work permit since she was 16. But the 65-year-old Jamaican native recently became a U.S. citizen -- just in time to head to the polls for the first time.

She said it was very exciting and made her feel like she had a purpose.

“My vote will be counted now. After the past four years and all the stuff we’ve been through with the now president, I felt it was really, really important for me to get out there and, like everybody said, let your voice be heard,” Grant said. “How can I let my voice be heard? By voting.”

Grant became an American citizen in June after coming to the states legally in 1976.

She and her husband of nearly 38 years talked about completing the citizenship process for decades, but it was a difficult journey.

Grant’s husband died from bone marrow cancer last December. That’s when she decided it was time to become a citizen.

“I became more aware of what was going on in the country. More aware of my status and how very precarious I felt. I didn’t feel very hopeful for my future,” Grant said. “I felt like I had to do this now and my voice needed to be heard because the more people who could be counted or the more votes that could be counted meant that there would be a change, hopefully a change.”

She said she believes her husband would be proud of her.

“He always said, J., you got to do this. I may not be able to right now, but I can’t leave you like this. I need to know you’ll be OK,” Grant said.

Grant’s daughter, Jihan White, said her mother is definitely her role model.

“I feel like role models should be someone that you definitely want to model yourself after, but they should be someone you know so you can fully understand their character,” White said. “I know my father would be proud of her; he would be proud of us.”

For this family, voting means more than just casting their ballots -- it’s a dream realized.

Grant and her daughter encourage all voters to make sure their voices are heard and to exercise their right as American citizens to participate in the democratic process.


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