Coconut Creek, FL (July 1, 2016) – In recognition of World Refugee Day, 204 residents of Broward and Palm Beach counties representing 42 countries participated in a naturalization ceremony organized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and hosted at the Omni Auditorium at Broward College North Campus in Coconut Creek, Fla. The naturalization ceremony was the kick-off to a larger event to honor persons who were forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. This is the fourth year that World Refugee Day has been celebrated at Broward College North Campus, and more than 700 attended the ceremony and Family Fun Day Fair.
Broward College General Counsel and Vice President Of Public and Government Affairs Greg Haile delivered the naturalization ceremony keynote address. He congratulated the new citizens and commended the honorees on their courage and determination to overcome the odds. "I was one of the lucky ones to be born in the United States. What I was given as a birthright, you have had to struggle and fight to achieve," he said. "You are the strong ones. I hope you cherish your challenges, because your challenges make you stronger."
As the countries of origin were called, cheers erupted from the crowd. Some of the countries represented include Bangladesh, China, Georgia, Morocco, Sunam, and Venezuela. The largest number of newly naturalized citizens originally were from Cuba, 23 participants, Jamaica, 24 participants, and Haiti with 43 participants respectively.
Immediately following the naturalization ceremony, the Family Fun Day Fair featured live performances, music, food, activities for the children and booths showcasing services from state, local, nonprofit and faith based organizations available for families in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Among the 50 booths on display were the departments of Children and Families, Health, Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Broward County Director of Elections, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Social Security Administration, Children's Service Council of Broward and Broward Victim's Rights Coalition.
During the fair, several refugees were honored for their contriution to the community. Anthony Mejilla, Flor Amaya Villanueva, and Elizabeth Salas were awarded the Outstanding Student Refugee Award; Melike Aslantas, Christian Jaramillo were awarded the Friend of Refugee Award; and Thiago Yenier Campoy Serrano was recognized as the Outstanding Refugee of the Year.
Several county and city officials also participated in the Refugee Award ceremony. Among them were Ted Deutch, U.S Congress Florida State Representative; Sandra Welch, City of Coconut Creek commissioner; Mikkie Belvedere, City of Coconut Creek mayor; Theresa Brier, deputy district director; Caryl Hattan, City of Davie councilmember; Dale V.C Holness, Broward County commissioner; and
Hiram Ruiz, former United Nations high commissioner for refugees & former director of department of children and families, refugee services.
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The event was hosted and sponsored by Broward College Project RENEW (Refugees Enterning New Enterprises and Workforce) and the Refugee Services Taskforce of Broward County, RENEW is a comprehensive program which provides English course for non-native speakers, life skills training, and education and workforce training for residents in Broward County. Since its inception in 2005, the program has worked with students from a wide range of backgrounds including Cuba, Liberia, Burma, Iran, China, and others. In addition, students can also take advantage of career counseling, transportation assistance, referrals for employment legal assistance, and child care assistance.
For more information about Broward College Project RENEW, please visit
http://www.broward.edu/academics/ce/renew/Pages/default.aspx or call
(954) 201-2677 for English and Spanish inquiries. Creole inquiries can call
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Serving more than 63,000 students annually, Broward College provides residents with certificate programs, two-year university-transfer degrees, two-year career degrees and baccalaureate degrees in selected programs. The mission of the college is to provide high-quality educational programs and services that are affordable and accessible to a diverse community of learners. For more information, visit