Thursday was a dream come true for 85 people representing 43 countries when they became American citizens on the campus of Miami University Regionals in Hamilton.
Some, like Russian-born Alexey Chvalyuk, waited years for the chance. To be precise, for Chvalyuk, 10 years and eight days.
“It’s been a dream of mine a long time ago … since I was 18,” said Chvalyuk, who owns Rus Roofing in West Chester Twp.
American Olympic wrestlers helped ignite that dream, said the 37-year-old.
“I had been watching a lot of competition, and the United States wrestlers, they had been great all the time,” said the former wrestler. “Your guys were awesome all the time.”
That admiration of American wrestling grew into a dream of American citizenship. On Sept. 6, 2007, at 27 years old, he began that journey. Life in America was a big adjustment from life in Russia, from the little differences like using standard measurements over the metric system, and big differences such as the crime rates.
“After living here a couple years I felt so free,” Chvalyuk said. “When I lived here another couple years I was done with wanting to go home.”
Thursday’s ceremony came in the third consecutive year the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati held a naturalization ceremony on Miami Hamilton’s campus and was complete with pomp and circumstance from the Butler County Sheriff’s Honor Guard and Bagpipe and Drum Corps to Miami University’s Men’s Glee Club.
Miami University President Greg Crawford, whose wife Renate is a naturalized citizen from the Netherlands, told the new citizens that America “is better because you have chosen to become part of us.”
“Our innovation, our success and our dedication to the founding principles of freedom and equality are strengthened by the broad diversity of background, culture and ideas,” he said. “As you embrace citizenship in the United States, we embrace you as fellow citizens.”
Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller presented Crawford with a proclamation declaring the day as Citizenship Day in the city of Hamilton.
“We are you, and you are us as you join us as citizens of the United States,” said Moeller. “I believe a diverse team is a stronger team, I believe a diverse neighborhood is a stronger neighborhood. You bring to us a life experience and a diverse background that makes the United States stronger.”
Since 2015, 243 people have taken the oath of citizenship on Miami Hamilton’s campus.
U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman, a former immigration attorney, told the crowd “there’s great wisdom shared by a diverse community” before she administered the oath.
“American citizenship is a great gift that represents the dreams, the aspirations and the struggles of centuries before us,” she said.
Mexico-born Maria Isabel Caro, 40, who lives in Hamilton, has spent the past 20 years working to become an American citizen. The day left her nearly speechless, but she said with a big smile she was “excited and happy” with butterflies in her stomach.
Her goal is to get family to America.
Sunday Bamidle, 40, from Nigeria, lives in Fairfield and said he was ready to be an American.
“I look forward to freedom, the happiness that you’re free to be what you want to be, and just to move on as American citizens,” said Bamidle, who works at Ridge Global.
Ritzel Romero Rigdon, 43, from Manchester in Adams County, was born in the Philippines and said for her Thursday “means a lot,” not only that she’s an American citizen, but that the process is complete.
“The stress is over,” she said.