Naturalization ceremonies typically take place in court, but on Friday, citizenship certificates were handed out in a school gymnasium. Dozens of people from across the world filled the Pigeon Forge High School basketball court to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

Forty-seven new citizens were proud to recite the national anthem. 

“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been looking forward to this day,” said Damilola Omitamu, a Nigerian born citizen who gained his U.S. citizenship on Friday. 

Dreams became reality for these people who can now call themselves Americans.

High schoolers from the civics and government class invited the U.S. District Court to come do a naturalization ceremony in their gym to celebrate diversity. 

“The students I think really got to sense what an important day this was,” said Judge Pamela Reeves, a United States District Judge in Tennessee. 

Judge Pamela Reeves handed out the certificates of citizenship. One of the recipients was Paulomi Sen from India, but she’s called Knoxville her home for the last seven years.

“The country I believe in the values of, I’m a part of it. I have been a part of it. But now I am part of it in every sense of the way. It means a lot,” said Paulomi Sen. 

Reeves adds, “In today’s time it becomes even more meaning ful that people do have the opportunity to become legalized citizens in this country. The ones that go through the ceremony, it’s not an easy process. They have to be thoroughly vetted, they have to pass a test.”

Gaining citizenship can take months. For many who accomplished it, they say their hard work and dedication paid off. They’re thankful for the freedoms and opportunities of this country, including voting. 

“That’s a priviledge. That’s a right, but it’s also a responsibliity,” said Sen. 

Omitamu adds, “Having an impact and shape it the way you want to, is very big.”

For those interested in applying for citizenship can now do so online through Citizenship and Immigration Services.