PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)– It was a powerful and inspirational event Friday at Bradley University’s Renaissance Coliseum as 239 new American citizens were sworn in at a naturalization ceremony.

It’s the final step on a long road to the American dream for many.

As a teen, Shelah Fathauer came to the United States from South Africa when her brother needed medical care, and she fell in love with the country.

“I blossomed here, I was educated here, I grew here, I became an adult here, and just tremendously indebted to the United States,” Fathauer says.

For another new American citizen, he and his wife have built a life here, a business together, and a new baby.

“I’m very proud, we’ve been waiting so long, and we’re so happy to be here,” says Endrid Zekjiri. “I’m married to my wife, she got my papers done when I came. We came from North Macedonia.”

District Director for Great Lakes Midwest District for US Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security’s Mick Dedvukaj says he would tell the new American citizens to first register to vote and then vote. That’s because all the power comes from the people.

He recommends you get involved in your community and be good Americans.

“Care about the safety and security of our country, and welcome other generations of immigrants, like they’ve been welcomed,” he says.  

Fathauer loves that she can raise her children in a colorful nation that is eclectic and diverse.

’And they can still appreciate their mom came from South Africa but is now an American citizen,” she says.