Lassen Park Welcomes New United States Citizens

Aug 21, 2015 7:07 PM by Rick Carhart

Twenty-five proud North State residents became the newest United States citizens on Thursday. As Action News Now Chief Photographer Rick Carhart shows us, the Naturalization Ceremony took place in the beautiful Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: it's one of the most beautiful settings you'll ever find. And for these new citizens and their family and friends, it has become an even more meaningful place.

Andres Partida says, "It was something really special for me and for my family, especially for my two daughters and my wife."

Gerardo Chavarria says, "It felt like a dream come true, like I was living a dream. I was real emotional."

The 25 have gone through all the steps necessary to become a naturalized citizen; from holding a green card for at least 3 to 5 years, to passing tests proving their knowledge of government and U.S. history. Many of these people have been in America for decades navigating the difficult process.

Father Arlon Vergara says, "It's not really easy, but it's a product of struggle and sacrifices."

Melody Botha says, "All my extended family lives in South Africa and Australia and New Zealand, so we don't get to see them for Christmas and things like that."

But each individual is here today because the sacrifices they made were worth the effort.

Gerardo says, "I feel complete... big change, it's a big accomplishment for me."

Melody says, "Today it means I'm not just renting the country. I feel like I was given the keys to the house of the country and I get to actually take ownership."

They came separately, for their own reasons.

Gerardo says, "You can accomplish anything here. And I always told myself since I was a kid that one day I was going to come to America and learn how to drive."

Father Vergara says, "I want to really give myself and make this my country to spread the good news of Christ."

Today, they all have something in common: they can call themselves "Americans".

Father Vergara says, "There's a responsibility and accountability on my part to be a US citizen."

Not everyone who comes here to live chooses a path of citizenship. But for Melody Botha, who came from South Africa 11 years ago with her family, the goal was always clear.

Melody says, "You have to decide what is this going to be to you, is this going to be home or is this just a place you're renting out for a little bit... we decided to make it home."

Today marked the first time a Naturalization Ceremony has been held at the park, but officials there hope it won't be the last.


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