Welsh-Ryan Arena is typically filled with excited Wildcat fans cheering on their Wildcats. But on Feb. 25, a different kind of purple pride filled the arena. Surrounded by excited and emotional family members, 484 immigrants representing 76 countries took an oath and became naturalized citizens of the United States of America.
It was a first-of-its-kind ceremony for Northwestern University. The University was asked to host the naturalization ceremony by the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sunil R. Harjani, a Northwestern Pritzker School of Law graduate, led the candidates through the ceremonial oath to become American citizens.
“You have chosen America as a place to live and a place to make your home,” said Judge Harjani. “This is a place for you to find your possibilities and opportunities and by choosing America, you’ve not only changed your life, but also you’ve changed the course of your children’s lives.”
For Kellogg grad, a ‘full circle moment’
Nicolas Rivelis, a 2011 Kellogg School of Management graduate, was among nearly 500 new Americans sworn in Friday. He and his wife, Marina, moved from Argentina to Evanston in 2009 on a student visa so Rivelis could earn his MBA degree from Kellogg. He said they didn’t plan to stay in the area after graduation, but 12 years later, they now call Lake Bluff home.
“There are so many emotions going on right now,” Rivelis said shortly before becoming an official American citizen. “It’s almost like a continuation of a process that has taken a long time. Our son is a U.S. citizen, so now we are an American family, too. The symbolism of what is happening here at Northwestern is just amazing.”
“It really is a full circle moment,” Marina Rivelis said. “The previous ceremony in Chicago was cancelled because of weather. When we got the letter saying the ceremony was moving to Northwestern, I thought how special it is that we are taking our oath at the same place where everything started for us.”
After graduation, Nicolas Rivelis continued his connection with Northwestern. He currently coaches students at Kellogg who are interested in careers in the healthcare industry.
Ten immigrants from Ukraine were also among the newest class of American citizens taking the oath at Friday’s historic ceremony.
“When I look out at you, this is what America looks like,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who represents the Illinois’ 9th Congressional District. “As of today, you are as much American as anyone else who is a citizen, even people who have been here for generations. You have the same rights as they do right now.”
Following the ceremony, the new Americans were all given the chance to register to vote.