Shylaja Mani, originally from India, has been living in the U.S. for 9 years.

On March 19, she officially became a U.S. citizen, part of a group of 100 individuals who participated in a naturalization ceremony at Dublin Scioto High School.

Edmund A. Sargus Jr., chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, presided over the ceremony.

Mani, a Powell resident, said she came to the U.S. for post-graduate studies and landed in central Ohio for a fellowship with the Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital.

Although Mani admitted she was anxious about the ceremony, she said the event turned out to be more of a celebration than a ceremony, which made it special.

"It is an honor to know where we started, and where we are today, and to be part of the United States of America and be a citizen," she said.

The group of 100 included residents of Columbus, Delaware, Dublin, Powell and Westerville, said Frances Greene, jury supervisor with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

This wasn't the first time the naturalization ceremony has been held outside the court.

The court regularly finds different facilities to hold ceremonies, Green said. A coming event will be held at Ohio State, and previous locations have included the Ohio Historical Society. About three to four ceremonies are held per week, she said.

Dublin Mayor Greg Peterson, who delivered remarks during the ceremony, said Sargus, a Dublin resident, reached out to him about the possibility of holding a naturalization ceremony in Dublin. Given the opportunity, he said, he would welcome another ceremony in Dublin.

Dublin City School District Superintendent Todd Hoadley said he would like to see another ceremony held at Coffman or Jerome because of the educational opportunity such an event affords students.

And the district itself also is plenty diverse.

In the past 12 months, the district has enrolled children from 100 countries, Hoadley said. At Scioto in particular, students are from 53 countries, he said.

The district also has several employees who went through the naturalization process, Hoadley said.

"It reinforces we're a country of immigrants," he said.

Stella Villalba, an English as a Second Language teacher who supports the district's elementary schools, said she had gone through the naturalization process six years ago.

Born in Argentina, Villalba has been with the district for six years. She said those who want to apply for U.S. citizenship have to be legal U.S. residents for a minimum of five years. The process includes an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a test covering American history, as well as a one-on-one interview with an immigration officer, she said.

When she spoke during the Scioto ceremony, Villalba told the new citizens to honor their story and where they came from. She also spoke about the appreciation for voting that her parents instilled in her. When she became a U.S. citizen herself, Villalba told the crowd, voting was the first item on her agenda.

"I was determined to never miss an Election Day," she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah