Bowling Green officials will honor more than 150 newly naturalized U.S. citizens with a special ceremony at Sloan Convention Center in September.
The event will serve as the fifth annual recognition of new naturalized citizens in Bowling Green and Warren County, and it will be the biggest yet, according to Leyda Becker, the international communities liaison for the city of Bowling Green.
“We have decided to continue the ceremony because of the overwhelming response we’ve had,” Becker said.
Since the federal government keeps naturalized citizens’ identities private, the city relies on community partners and word of mouth from friends and families to create the annual invite list. Thus far, they’ve invited 178 people.
During the ceremony, Becker reads the names of every known person who was naturalized in the past year – including a few people who will be naturalized that same morning – and presents the attendees with a certificate signed by the mayor and city manager.
“We just want you to know we’re happy that you accomplish this goal,” Becker said. “We know how hard it is to become a citizen,” the process of which can’t begin until the individual has legally lived in the U.S. for five years.
Becker, who moved to Bowling Green from Venezuela about 26 years ago when she was 13 years old, completed the naturalization process in 2011. There wasn’t an option to celebrate with friends or family in her hometown, so she wanted to ensure that other folks had the opportunity.
“Most naturalization ceremonies take place in Louisville during the daytime, and families can’t always go because of work or school,” Becker said. “They may not have gotten a chance to celebrate in the community that they live in with the people who love and support them.”
The event also serves as an opportunity to inform the new constituents about city services, register them to vote, connect them with elected officials and the International Communities Liaison Program and recruit them to available job opportunities within the city.
In particular, the city wants the public safety departments to reflect Bowling Green’s diverse population. The city recently hired its first police officer from Congo, Godfrey Hamisi.
“For that community, that will mean a lot,” Becker said. “That’s what we’d like to replicate across the board.”
The reception will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at Sloan Convention Center. The event is invitation only for the new citizens and their friends and families.
For more information on the International Communities Liaison Program or the ceremony, contact Becker at 270-393-3766 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If anyone who was naturalized in the past 12 months has not received an invitation, Becker encourages them to contact her office.