ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Vanda Savory-Boucher has three big reasons to love her new life in America: The college educations of her three children.
The Guyana native, 42, said she moved to the United States with her husband so their children could have opportunities for furthering their education, as well as healthier living conditions.
Savory-Boucher was one of 38 people who became U.S. citizens Monday in the annual Independence Day naturalization ceremony at the William Paca House and Gardens, the historic home of an American Founding Father.
Twenty-four countries — including Iran, Russia, Cameroon, Canada and the United Kingdom — were represented at the ceremony.
The Annapolis ceremony was part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ annual Independence Day celebration, and one of more than 350 naturalization ceremonies held across the country and around the world between June 27 and July 4, according to the agency. Through this year’s ceremonies, more than 24,000 people became U.S. citizens.
Today, Savory-Boucher’s three children are all in college with scholarships. She considers life in the United States a catalyst for their success. Savory-Boucher’s family traveled from Canada to celebrate her citizenship.
“It’s all thanks to America,” said her cousin, Hermyn Savory-Shortt.
As for her very first July 4 as an official American, Savory-Boucher said she would spend it taking part in a U.S. tradition.
“I’m going to eat a lot of hot dogs,” she joked.
John Sounderraj was one of several people from India to become citizens. Sounderraj, 30, and his wife, Elvina John, came to the United States in 2006, several months after they were married. Three of Sounderraj’s uncles have lived in America.
“My main thing in my life is to come to America,” he said.
Since moving to the United States, Sounderraj has become a father — another incentive to stay, he said. The United States provides his 4-year-old son, Elsen, with a healthier environment for growing up, he said.
“We feel India is not good for him. He got sick because of the water, because of the mosquitoes,” Sounderraj said.
Historic Annapolis Foundation Vice Chairman John Belcher was the keynote speaker of the event, which also featured the All Children’s Chorus of Annapolis. About 100 people, including the candidates for citizenship, attended.
Belcher is a naturalized citizen himself, having moved to the U.S. from Canada with his wife.
“We lived what you’ve gone through, and it is an arduous task. We’ve been here six years and just love this country,” he said in his speech.
Belcher called the United States a “mixing bowl of many people” and spoke about the benefits of hard work and community service. He asked the candidates to not forget their heritage.
USCIS Baltimore District Office Director Gregory Collett asked each candidate to stand as he called the name of his or her native country. USCIS Management Directorate Associate Director Rendell Jones then led the group in the Oath of Allegiance. With that, they became America’s newest citizens.
“Congratulations,” Jones said as the crowd cheered.
Jones said equal rights and responsibilities unify the diverse people of the United States. He spoke of the nation’s “immigrant tradition.”
“While we are all protected by our rights as citizens, we must strive to be active citizens in our community,” Jones said. “Recognize your citizenship as an opportunity to shape a better future for yourself, your family, your community and your new country.”
Joyce Passos of the League of Women Voters of Anne Arundel County spoke about the duty of voting.
“Participation is the name of the game,” she said. Passos stayed after the ceremony to hand out voter registration paperwork and urged the new citizens to submit it as soon as possible.
As the gathering concluded, Belcher left the audience with a few words.
“Freedom, entrepreneurship, opportunity, and you do make a difference,” he said.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)