Hundreds in central Illinois become U.S. Citizens

Wednesday's naturalization ceremony is one of the largest

PEORIA, Ill. - There are now 667 new Americans in central Illinois.

The Peoria Civic Center hosted one of the largest naturalization ceremonies in the US Wednesday.

The new citizens come to the area from 86 different countries.

Superintendent of Peoria Public Schools, Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, gave the keynote speech. Dr. Kherat became a citizen 30 years ago when she came to the US from St. Croix.

The crowd took the oath of citizenship and said the pledge of allegiance for the first time as American citizens.

"Today will be the greatest dream in my life, I got my citizenship." Eleazar Nellas, who is from the Philippines, says.

"I mean it's surreal, you know it means a lot so I'm proud to be an American now." Paul Ginesi, from Northern Ireland, says.

"It's more freedom, I can go everywhere I could not go before, I can step through any doors that I didn't go before. It's very good to be a citizen." Ruth Male, from Nigeria, says.

More than 400 Peoria Public School students attended the ceremony as part of citizenship and constitution week. The students also wrote letter to congratulate each one of the new citizens.

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