97 become US citizens at UNI ceremony - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

97 become US citizens at UNI ceremony

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Our country now has almost a hundred brand new citizens.  They were sworn in during a citizenship naturalization ceremony at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.  All of them come from different backgrounds, but share the common belief that America's still the land of opportunity

Anxiously awaiting a major life change, dozens filed into UNI's Maucker Union Ballroom to be sworn in as American citizens.  For Paloma Giangrande of Italy, it's been a long time coming.

"I came here when I was 17 years old with about $50 to my name, and I was recruited to study here in the US.  I went to Boston first, Wheaton College.  Then I fell in love with the country and decided to get my Ph.D.," said Giangrande.

Twenty two years later, she's a professor and cancer researcher at the University of Iowa. 

"It would be very hard for me to actually have a faculty position at a university in Italy, and pursue my dream of being a scientist, so I do believe that.  I think this is a great country," Giangrande said.

Benjamin Pulido came to the US from Mexico, finding his way to Iowa six years ago.  His wife just became a US citizen, and with Wednesday's ceremony, he is now too.

"This country's awesome.  We've never had any problems.  Iowa is very cool.  It's a lot of good people, a lot of diversity, and we are free to do anything that we want," said Pulido.

Ninety seven people in all from 43 countries in five continents took the formal oath of citizenship during Wednesday's ceremony.  The group of new citizens then pledged allegiance to the flag of their new country.  Many now look forward to the privileges that being an American citizen brings, like voting. 

"I feel like I need to voice my opinion about where the country's going," said Giangrande.

And she hopes that becoming a citizen gets easier for others, through immigration reform.

"We have to be careful and more alert about potential people we don't want to include, but the ones that should and deserve it should be allowed to become citizens," Giangrande said.

Citizenship would give others like her a shot at the American dream.

Wednesday's citizenship ceremony is the largest UNI has hosted in the event's three year history on campus.

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