PHOENIX -- Nearly 200 people from about 50 different countries celebrated their first Fourth of July as United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony Friday.
They gathered in the gym at South Mountain Community College, taking the Oath of Allegiance and waving their American flags to the beat of "God Bless the USA."
"It means everything," said Brian Gonani, who is originally from Malawi, Africa. "I've always wanted to come to the United States of America. To be a United States citizen is just, it's a dream come true. You have no idea what it means to me."
They are among thousands of others across the nation who recently became citizens of the country they have called home for years.
"We have over 9,000 people becoming U.S. citizens in 100 different ceremonies starting June 30 and commencing today, July the fourth, and how apropos to have these people become United States citizens during our nation's 238th birthday," said Maria Elena Upson with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Nataliya Benshoof is from Ukraine and officially became a citizen Friday.
"I changed my life in the United States," she said.
Danah Stalling, of Trinidad, encouraged others to never give up on becoming citizens.
"Just keep trying. Keep going. It's worth it in the end," she said.