As a volunteer for Global Cleveland, I am in awe of the courage, confidence, conviction, determination, faith, and perseverance that motivates people from around the world to cast off from their known environment toward a new life in this dynamic and complex nation.

To have the opportunity to bear witness to the achievement of citizenship and offer a humble, heartfelt welcome and congratulations is a blessing and an honor.

When I see the smiles, hugs, photos with family, friends, and mentors; the marvelous attire people wear in honor of their heritage; experience the universally understood emotions of pride, hope, optimism, and gratitude that new citizens share at the ceremony; see the eagerness and immediate opportunity to participate in democracy by registering to vote- I feel an immediate connection and kinship with my new neighbors.

The social and economic fabric of our community and our nation are enriched and energized by the talents, traditions, and experiences our new neighbors bring with them to America.

The experience is uplifting, inspiring, and joyous. As my pastor aptly put it this past Sunday,”We are all immigrants.” It gives me the chance to experience the excitement my grandparents must have felt when they came to this country in the not too distant past. Everyone should take the opportunity to experience attending a naturalization ceremony and reflect on who and how came before you to help give you the life you have today.

Lis Kroepel, Global Cleveland Volunteer