Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sixty-six naturalized in Fourth of July ceremony

TAMPA — When Yolie Ryan learned she would become a U.S. citizen on the Fourth of July, she knew she had to go shopping.

At JCPenney on Sunday, she picked out a red dress and white blazer. Her husband gave her pearls. She painted her nails a glittery red.

Before Thursday's ceremony, she completed her patriotic outfit with an American flag pin — one her husband got while working for the U.S. government in the Philippines.

That's where the pair met. She worked in the hotel where Larry Ryan usually stayed. They married in 2005 and settled in the Philippines.

Life was good. They had two housekeepers and hibiscus flowers the size of dinner plates. But as Larry's mother aged, the pair wanted to be close. They moved to Tampa, and a year ago Yolie started working toward citizenship.

On Thursday, she joined 65 other people from 27 countries who swore allegiance to the United States. There was a couple from Kenya. A 72-year-old woman from Mexico. Their families and friends crowded the event hall at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Larry Ryan took photos from the side. At one point, tears welled in Yolie's eyes.

"It's so good," she said. "It feels so good."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn spoke during the ceremony, giving a nod to his family members who emigrated from Ireland three generations ago.

"You are Americans," he told the crowd. "You are part of a great experiment that started more than 200 years ago."

He encouraged them to go out and make their new country even better.

"Get involved. Vote. Stand up for what's right," he said.

Listening from the front row was 18-year-old Ahmed Elshaer, born in Egypt.

Though he left his birth country as a child 10 years ago, he was contemplative Thursday, reflecting on what it means to him to be an American — and what it means to officially leave behind a country now in turmoil.

Egypt's military ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday, and Elshaer still has family in Egypt — grandparents, aunts and uncles. He said he's praying for them and for peace.

"Hopefully, it gets better," he said.

Elshaer is a student at Hills­borough Community College and hopes to study engineering at the University of South Florida. To him, becoming a U.S. citizen means celebrating unity. Americans show that more than he sees now in Egypt, he said.

His father, Abdelhay Elshaer, 54, also became a citizen Thursday, so their entire immediate family is now naturalized. (Ahmed's mother, brother and sister already took the oath.)

They planned to celebrate the Fourth of July with a special lunch Thursday.

And then for Ahmed?

"Independence Day," he said. "With Will Smith."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Sixty-six naturalized in Fourth of July ceremony 07/04/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 4, 2013 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hernando County Sheriff's Office: Deputies shoot suicidal woman who brandished shotgun


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff's deputies shot a woman they believed to be suicidal after she pointed a shotgun at them Sunday, according to a police report.

  2. Trump administration disbands federal advisory committee on climate change


    WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government's climate analysis into long-term planning.

    President Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
  3. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  5. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]