By Chris McBride
Life as a nontraditional student can be challenging.
For 37 year-old Youngstown State University student and host of Rookery En Espanol, Bruno Serrano, being a nontraditional student was only a part of his challenge — Serrano was also an immigrant from Peru.
But on Jan. 30, he became a U.S. citizen after living with a green card for 15 years.
The decision to change his immigration status happened after listening to the 2016 presidential debates. When then-candidate Donald Trump vowed a tougher stance on immigration, Serrano said he realized it was time to hold more than just a green card.
With the help of friends and a quiz app, Serrano studied daily in preparation for his citizenship test. His studying paid off when he passed, gaining official citizenship in the United States.
On March 3, during a naturalization ceremony held in the Mahoning County Courthouse in Youngstown, Serrano and seven others were sworn in as citizens.
For Serrano, that moment was more emotional than he thought.
“I remember the judge saying that even though we are now U.S. citizens, our ethnicity, culture, passion and love for our country is never gonna change,” Serrano said.
Also sworn in with Serrano was Joao Macieira, a Struthers resident originally from Portugal. Macerieria sought out citizenship due to his fear of being deported under a Trump presidency.
Ana Torres, co-advisor of the YSU Latino Student Organization, said that fear of deportation is a common thing even among legal U.S. immigrants.
“The negative rhetoric over immigration, targeting mostly the Latino, mainly Mexican and Middle East immigrants, created misconceptions and stereotypes that became damaging and divisive,” Torres said.
With his newly gained citizenship, Serrano hopes to create awareness and teach people how beautiful his culture and the culture of other immigrants are.
He also hopes to one day run for government office and help make important changes to the way things are here in America.
“Even though I didn’t vote, I can still voice my ideals and my opinions, even after the election,” said Serrano.
Despite now being an American citizen, Serrano still retains his Peruvian citizenship and a deep love for his home country.
“After swearing in, I joked that I thought my skin would change colors, my accent would disappear,” Serrano said. “But that’s not gonna happen; I still have an accent, my skin is still brown, and I’m proud of that.”