More than 700 people watched as 40 people became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at First Coast High School. | Will Brown, Jacksonville TodayMore than 700 people watched as 40 people became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at First Coast High School. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today
More than 700 people watched as 40 people became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at First Coast High School. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Jacksonville welcomes 40 new US citizens

Published on April 30, 2024 at 4:04 pm

Lia Knowles knows her 3-year-old daughter is happiest when she is dancing. That’s what she did Tuesday morning as the First Coast High School Band played The Klaxon March by American band leader Henry Fillmore. 

The performance concluded a naturalization ceremony where 40 people from 24 countries became U.S. citizens.

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Knowles was 17 when she moved to the States from the Bahamas to attend college. 

“I’ve been here for 13 years, and this year I just really wanted to vote,” she said. “I wanted to exercise my right. I’ve been here. I’ve paid my taxes. I’ve done my time in the country, and I really wanted to vote this year.”

This was the fourth time a naturalization ceremony has been held inside a Duval County high school. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has sought to move the ceremonies outside the federal courthouse to spur civic engagement.

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Judge Timothy Corrigan says the occasions double as a living civics lesson.

“It’s hard to think of a better one because it’s actual real people who have worked hard to become United States citizens,” Corrigan said. “The students see what it means to these folks who are becoming new citizens. They learn a little bit about America and the United States, what it means, what it can be and, hopefully, we’re working more toward the more perfect union.”

The newest Americans were born in the Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, Jamaica, Russia, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Iraq and more than a dozen other countries.

Corrigan challenged them all, as well as the First Coast students, to vote in every election, serve on juries and support their country in any way possible.

Knowles celebrated her big day by wearing an American flag cardigan from Jacksonville-based Venus Fashion. The stars on her right arm and stripes on her left allowed her to stand out inside the auditorium at First Coast High School. More than 700 people attended the ceremony.


author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.
author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.

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