More than two dozen immigrants are now United States citizens.

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, a naturalization ceremony was held at Schwiebert Park in Rock Island. Twenty-eight new citizens from 14 countries were honored at the event.

We had the opportunity to speak with one of the graduates, who expressed the emotions she feels after being the final person in her family to become an American citizen.

“I’m so excited. I’m so happy — it’s been a long journey. I thank God,” said Solange Seba, a 26-year-old who came to America six years ago. Since then, she’s faced lots of comments from others in the community, but has continued to work hard to gain her citizenship in America.

“First of all, I’m not a refugee anymore…like people have been calling me a refugee…but now I’m a U.S. citizen,” she said Wednesday. “So it means so much to me.”

We also had the opportunity to engage in conversation with the Chief United States District Judge, Sara Darrow, who presided over the naturalization ceremony.

“Many of them have been on this journey for a long time. Have lived in the community, in the U.S., for at least five years in most cases, have passed all the tests, and have earned this citizenship which was recognized here today,” she said.

Darrow worked with the courts, the clerk’s office, and the immigration service officers to put on this naturalization ceremony.

“For me personally, it’s truly one of the greatest honors that my position allows me to do — is to preside over these and be the first person to say, ‘Welcome my fellow Americans’,” she said. The emotions Darrow feels at these events are much different than what she experiences in the courtroom.

“It’s just truly like you said…it’s an unmatched energy of joy and celebration and optimism,” Darrow said. “And those are not the typical emotions felt in a criminal courtroom setting, in all seriousness, but more somber types of proceedings.”

Judge Darrow sees this event as a way for us to remember how our country began.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and this is how we were founded and his is no different,” she said. “Just maybe sometimes different countries, but at its core, what this means is that folks from different backgrounds and cultures and beliefs and perspectives will just continue to enrich our democracy.”