Chasing the American Dream: Naturalization Ceremony Held on Campus

26 new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance during Friday, May 17's Naturalization ceremony on campus.

Galloway, N.J. – Twenty-six people from 16 different countries, including two Stockton University students, swore allegiance to the United States and became U.S. citizens during an annual Naturalization Ceremony hosted by the Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (SCCESL) on Friday, May 17.

“Wherever your journey began, I’m happy that you’ve found your way here to where our paths are crossing. I’m so glad to have you all as part of our community. Your unique perspectives and experiences enrich our nation and make us all better,” President Joe Bertolino said to the audience of new citizens and their families.  

Merydawilda Colón, executive director of SCCESL, mirrored Bertolino’s sentiments during her welcome remarks, thanking the new citizens for sharing this momentous occasion on Stockton’s campus and for utilizing resources such as the naturalization class offered by SCCESL at the Stockton Atlantic City campus.

“I extend my deepest gratitude to all of you because you have chosen Stockton University as the site of the massive milestone you’re completing today. Your dedication and hard work have paid off, and the contributions that you will make to the community will be commendable,” Colón said.

The naturalization classes on Stockton’s campus boast a 97% pass rate and are facilitated by Stockton students working in SCCESL. Over 40 South Jersey residents have become citizens through the classes.

Shortly before administering the Oath of Allegiance, Keith Dorr, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Mt. Laurel, congratulated the new citizens and applauded them for their efforts during the naturalization process.

Dorr described the often-overlooked process that new citizens go through: obtaining a visa, multiple oral interviews in English, receiving a permanent residency card, filling out a $725 application with over 12 pages of questions and successfully passing a civics exam with 100 possible questions.

According to Dorr, all of this is typically a five-year commitment that is completed while permanent residents are going about their daily lives, working and going to school.

“When you make this choice to become an American citizen, not much changes in your life,” Dorr said. “You may have taken some time off from work today to come here and become an American, and there are people in your lives who probably don't know you're becoming an American.

“You'll go back on Monday, and people won't even know you became a citizen because your day-to-day life will not change. But you know what does change? The way that you feel. You feel something in your heart: a sense of pride and appreciation for this country that has allowed you to come here and be a part of it.”

Nadya Sturies, a junior Accounting major, and Mrugakshi Brahmbhatt, a junior Business Marketing major were both praised during Bertolino’s remarks. He proudly declared that they — along with everyone else receiving their citizenship — are “Ospreys and are now proud Americans as well.”

Nadya Sturies and family
Sturies and her family shortly before the ceremony. 

Sturies traveled to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was only 6. Now, surrounded by excited loved ones – some of whom went through the same process as her – she will be able to receive her citizenship and end a long journey. 

“Studying for it was nerve-wracking because I was worried that they were going to ask me all sorts of stuff that I wasn't going to be ready for, even though they do give you the questions before. But yeah, it ended up working out in the end,” Sturies said.

Brahmbhatt, who is from India, beamed brightly as she expressed her gratitude for becoming a new citizen after living in the United States for six years.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunities this country has awarded me and for the opportunity and support of my family and friends who have been by my side throughout this journey,” Brahmbhatt said. “As I take this oath, I'm filled with pride and excitement for the future, and I’m eager to participate fully in the civic life of my new home.  

Newly naturalized citizens like Brahmbhatt will not have to wait long to participate in civic life — both Colón and Dorr emphasized how important it is for them to contribute to American society and their local communities, whether through voting or by being good neighbors.

Mrugakshi Brahmbhatt and her loved one
Brahmbhatt and her proud loved one shortly before the ceremony.

“I would like to tell you all that, as part of our American Democracy and Political Engagement Project’s nonpartisan civic engagement efforts, we have voter registrations in our lobby,” Colón said. “Voting is not just a right, it's a powerful tool that allows you to have a voice and to be a part of our democracy, so please remember to complete the voter registration after the ceremony.”

“Standing up here, looking at all of you, I know that you deserve this. You are incredible and good people about to become American citizens. You are going to make this country better because you've already made this country better a little bit in your own ways. I can't imagine what else you're going to accomplish as a United States citizen,” Dorr said.

After taking the oath of allegiance, the 26 participants were individually called up by name to receive their certificate, a small American flag and “patriot bags” donated by the Lafayette chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They then enjoyed red, white and blue cake to celebrate.  

The new U.S. citizens are: Sanan Abdullayev; Most Sayela Akter; Jose Noe Arias Lopez; Danielle Terese Balbosa; Bruna Ghirardi Banach; Pablo Andres Bedoya Escobar; Mrugakshi Sanjaykumar Brahmbhatt; Natalya Alexandrovna Burns; Jose Jhacel Castaneda Gonzalez; Victor Jose Cruz Alvarez; Roberto De Los Santos Castro; Jasmin Alejandra Estevez Taveras; Kelly Jane Feinstein; Iarah Maria Garcia De La Rosa; Most Masumi Iftikar; Razia Jesmin; Andela Jevtic; Bakhodyr Kasymov; Gagandeep Kaur; Nevyana Koleva Kirova; Zion Nkosi Joshua Pompey; Zilanda Ramirez; Jagdev Singh; Nadya Pauig Sturies; Salma Lucia Vega Caluff; and Jackenson Verrier. 

Countries represented: Australia; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Brazil; Bulgaria; Colombia; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Haiti; India; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mexico; Philippines; Serbia; and Trinidad and Tobago. 

Nineteen Take Oath to Become American Citizens

May 6, 2022

2022 Naturalization
On Friday, May 6, 19 natives of 11 countries officially became Americans, taking the Oath of Allegiance in a ceremony at the Campus Center at Stockton University. 

Galloway, N.J. – They came from Colombia, Ghana, India, Poland and Peru years ago to start a new life in America,

On Friday, May 6, 19 natives of 11 countries officially became Americans, taking the Oath of Allegiance in a ceremony at the Campus Center at Stockton University.

The Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning (SCCESL) hosts the annual ceremony and also sponsors naturalization classes at the Stockton Atlantic City campus from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesdays from September through May.

“Offering naturalization classes and hosting the Naturalization Ceremony speaks to the vision of our center, which is to promote the ideals of public service and social responsibility, and serve the public good,” said Dr. Merydawilda Colón, executive director of the SCCESL. 

  • Story and photos by Diane D’Amico

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Photos by Susan Allen