Twenty-one people gathered with their friends and families at the federal courthouse in Elkins for their naturalization ceremony.
Those 21 people were as diverse as the countries they came from; 16 of them to be exact, from four continents. Each have their reasons for wanting American citizenship. For some, like Angelika Mowen, who moved to the U.S. from her native Turkmenistan, it offers a much greater level of freedom.
"I went through a very difficult past. I had a very different religion view that the majority of the people who live in my country, so I went through difficulties, and when I came to America it was a lot of opportunities for me," Mowen said.
Federal Judge John Preston Bailey presided over the ceremony in Elkins. While the new citizenship is a proud moment for each individual, he said it also helps to strengthen America, too.
"You get people with new ideas and new ways of looking at things and people to become citizens not only of the United States, but citizens of West Virginia and citizens of the towns and cities in which they've located," Bailey said.
Freelance journalist Jean Snedegar spoke to the new Americans at the end of the ceremony. Snedegar herself spent time working outside of the U.S., and said she understand how it feels to be a resident alien. She said she hopes they'll take advantage of their new privileges as Americans.
"Today is the day when they can do everything. They're a full citizen of the United States, and hopefully they'll take all that responsibility and vote," Snedegar said.