When Juan Pablo Gonzalez Buezo first came to the United States, he was just 5 years old.
He says he didn't know a lot of English.
"I knew a few words like apple, glue, door," he recalls.
But that wouldn't get him far. As he went to school, Juan Pablo had to immerse himself in the language. And he soon found he had a love for learning, especially American history.
"When I moved to the U.S., my language changed but my curiosity didn't. So once I got a hold of English, I kept on learning."
And he kept on and kept on, until this year. He has been put into the spotlight twice in the last two weeks.
First, last Friday, Juan Pablo walked across the stage and received his high school diploma as the Valedictorian of his high school, Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota.
Then a week later, another big day: Juan Pablo, along with his mother Jessica and his dad Javier, all became U.S. citizens.
"It's just incredible. I've been living in the states since 1999, so that's almost 14 years now, " said Juan Pablo. He added, " I can't believe we are U.S. citizens now."
They were among 75 people on Friday who took the Oath of Allegiance at the Tampa U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office. They came from 36 different countries.
Ivan Radosavljevic says he hopes to be able to bring his son to the United States now.
"It's an opportunity for a new life. It's just another opportunity, for family, for future," he said.
For Juan Pablo, citizenship reaffirms that this is his home.
And with one phrase, they all had their dreams come true: "Congratulations, you are now U.S. citizens."
There were hugs and tears and a lot of American flags.
Juan Pablo was also asked to speak at the Naturalization ceremony.Officials were thrilled with his story of being valedictorian and his next step is off to college. He's going to Yale in the fall and will double major in political science, and of course, history.
"Today we become part of the American legacy, " he told the other new U.S. citizens in his speech.
They all placed their hands over their heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
"One nation under God, with Liberty and Justice for all,"
Juan Pablo says he will remain civic minded and will always have the forefathers and those who made this country great, in his thoughts.
"What made this country great is that the citizens do care, the citizens love their country and they work hard to better the country. And I think that's what it means to be an American citizen."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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