The floor of Brooks Memorial Gym was packed with people who all had one goal. Their goal was to complete their journey to becoming American citizens.

“ETSU reached out to [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] about hosting a naturalization ceremony,” said Rick Tipton with the Greeneville division of the U.S. district court. “And then Nashville contacted me as division manager. I spoke to Judge (Ronnie) Greer, and we started planning a little over a year ago. I reached out to ETSU and Dr. Noland’s office, and then we started planning.”

The Sept. 21 ceremony, which took six months to plan, saw 91 individuals from 36 different countries take an oath to become United States citizens. Each person had a different reason for becoming a U.S. Citizen.

“I’m from Taiwan, Republic of China,” Jane Alred said. “My husband is from Tennessee, and my three children are American citizens as well.”

Alred said it took her six years to complete her journey to becoming a U.S. citizen, and she was honored to be a part of the first naturalization ceremony at ETSU.

“Thanks to the school for doing this for 91 people,” Alred said.

An ETSU student also became a U.S. citizen at the naturalization ceremony.

Van Phan with ETSU President Brian Noland

“For me, when I came here, it was under a family petition,” ETSU student Van Phan said. “So it took us about 10 to 12 years.”

Phan was from Vietnam, and she said she became a U.S. citizen for school.

“I always wanted to study medicine,” Phan said. “Certainly for you to apply to medical school, especially if you’re going to a state school, it’s easier if you have your permanent residency status.”

Phan said it was cool to have the naturalization ceremony at ETSU.

“Coming here, I really thought we would be in a courthouse,” Phan said. “Being able to have the citizenship ceremony right at my school was really cool. It really means something special.”

The 91 participants of ETSU’s first naturalization ceremony now have the same rights and freedoms that Americans born in the United States have every day.

“I hope their dreams come true,” Tipton said. “They come to this country for freedom of religion and speech, and I wish them the best.”