Eight years ago, Christian Braima, Bell Bank digital services specialist, left Sierra Leone for a better life and more opportunities in the United States. Two years ago, he started the application process to become a U.S. citizen. And on August 28, joined by family and co-workers, Christian raised his right hand and pledged allegiance to the United States during his naturalization oath ceremony.
“It was just a mix of emotions,” Christian says. “Becoming a U.S. citizen was a lifelong dream. I am the first one in my family to come to the United States.”
Becoming a citizen opens up opportunities for Christian and his family by making it a little easier for his parents to visit. Christian hasn’t seen his parents in 10 years, and his parents have never met their grandchildren in person.
Christian says he’s benefited greatly by moving to the United States. He had a chance to study computer science at North Dakota State University, and he’s been able to help his family financially.
In 2017 – the same year he graduated from NDSU – Christian started the citizenship application process, which involved filling out an application, paying an $800 fee, going through FBI fingerprinting and a background check, and a 3-part interview that included tests in reading, writing and civics. He also submitted recommendation letters from Stephanie Sailer, Bell digital services manager, and Amy Wolf, human resources manager at Bell.
“I am grateful to Bell for really helping me during this process,” remarks Christian, who started with the bank on August 27, 2018. “It’s been my dream job and has exceeded everything I expected.”
It also meant a lot to Christian that Stephanie and co-worker Tony Smith attended his oath ceremony.
“I wanted to attend Christian’s ceremony to support and congratulate him on completing the long road to becoming a U.S. citizen,” Tony explains. “I was happy for Christian and the other ceremony participants for getting to cement their mark on American identity and culture.”
For Stephanie, attending the ceremony was another way to promote and sustain Bell’s family atmosphere.
“Work family supports work family,” she comments. “In addition to Christian, 146 other people became U.S. citizens, each with a unique story. The intensity of positive energy I felt as I reflected on their journeys humbled me. Their commitment and years of patience earned them a privilege I was given by being born in the United States. On a spiritual level, I was reminded of other gifts I’ve received and my responsibility to use them.”
Christian’s wife, Marionette Koroma, and children, Joy Kamara, Naomi Braima and Christian Nathan Braima, also attended the ceremony.