The stories of those who gain US citizenship vary widely. Some are quiet stories of someone falling in love with a US citizen and getting married. Some are more dramatic stories of someone overcoming terrible conditions to come to the US. In many cases, it takes these individuals years to become naturalized citizens of the US.
For Renata Bell, for example, the journey took over 45 years. Renata Bell came from Germany but only moved to Denton, Texas from Oklahoma one year ago to be closer to her son. Around that time, she began to apply for citizenship and says that she received much support and assistance from her Denton neighbors. One teenage neighbor, Britney Broussard, drove Bell to the various government buildings and courthouses necessary for the process and even woke very early to take the elderly woman to her citizenship ceremony. Some members of the Trinity United Methodist Church helped Bell study for the citizenship test.
Varvara Lepchenko’s path to US citizenship was very different from Bell’s. Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Lepchenko pursued citizenship because she wanted to compete on the Olympic tennis team as a US citizen. Lepchenko and her family arrived in the US after fleeing their home country while Lepchenko was still a child. It took the family some time to get asylum status and financially times were difficult for the family. Lepchenko showed promise as a tennis player early on and began pursuing a career in the sport. In 2005, Lepchenko won a tennis event and was taken in by Shari Butz and her family. She eventually began to win games and build a career as a tennis player, something she says was impossible in her home country. After a lifetime of effort, Lepchenko gained her citizenship in September 2011 and was able to take part in the Olympics in London this July, a lifelong dream.
Those pursuing US citizenship come from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds. They want to become US citizens for a number of reasons – to pursue a dream or keep family together or for other reasons – but they all show determination and effort pursuing the long path to citizenship. Some have lived in the US for years while others have lived here for decades. Each of their stories shows an interesting way of contributing to the US and becoming part of the country’s future.