Shaun Towne; Reporting by Erica Ricci - PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) -- A group of Rhode Island residents had a new reason to celebrate the Fourth of July this year as they officially became United States citizens.
With family and friends at their side and the great American pastime as a fitting backdrop, 19 individuals stood on the field at McCoy Stadium and pledged their allegiance to the U.S.
Chel Alessio said she was just 6 years old when her family emigrated here from southern Italy in March of 1972. She said her parents had dreams for their children that they weren't confident could be realized anywhere but America.
"My father had five girls and one boy and he wanted his girls to be educated," Alessio said.
The family settled in Rhode Island and each member became a citizen before Alessio turned 18. Once she was of age, she never bothered to do so herself.
"It was never that important to me to become a citizen because I felt like I already was," she said.
As Alessio began to raise her own family in Westerly, she realized she was missing out on the privileges that come with citizenship. So on Monday, after 45 years, Alessio took her Oath of Allegiance along with 18 others.
The other candidates hail from 14 different countries, live in nine different Rhode Island communities and each has a different story of how they got here, but now they all have one thing in common.
"It's like the best country in the whole wide world," new citizen Suzanne Spaulding said.
Spaulding's husband, Cameron, has always known that, having made a career out of protecting his country in the Marines. He said it meant a lot to him to see his wife's patriotic pride.
"It makes me feel good that she wants to be a part of this country because obviously I love this country and I'm glad she does too," Cameron said.
The group of 19 was just a small fraction of the 15,000 being sworn in as citizens nationwide on Monday and Tuesday.
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