For the next several months, Citizenship Counts will be featuring conversations with naturalized citizens sharing their journeys to American citizenship. Our first interview is with New Yorker John Paul Makilya.
 
What is your full name? John Paul Makilya
 
What country are you from originally? Kenya
 
Briefly describe what life was like in your native country.
 
My experience of life in Kenya is one shaped by a childhood spent in Nairobi, one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic cities. Despite Kenya’s amazingly temperate weather, warm people and incredible food, the country is plagued by power outages, high crime rates, and extreme inequality. Kenya has made strides to remedy some of the social challenges it faces but life for ordinary citizens remains quite challenging. 
 
What is your occupation? I work as a Global Operations Associate at Flexport, a global freight-forwarding company.
 
What circumstances surrounded your move to the United States? My father is a naturalized American, and I’m a naturalized American through him.
 
When did you become a citizen? I became a citizen six years ago, a year after graduating from college.
 
How long did the process take for you to become a naturalized citizen? Briefly describe your path to citizenship.
 
I took about six years to become a citizen after becoming a permanent resident. My path to citizenship was uncomplicated, and I decided to become an American as soon as I completed the residency requirements needed to apply.
 
What emotions did you feel the day you got naturalized? I was incredibly happy to become an American and saw my path to citizenship as more than just a path upward economic mobility but rather an assumption of a new cultural heritage.
 
What stood out or surprised you the most to you the day you were naturalized? The universal approach to citizenship that America has really stood out to me on the day I was naturalized. Being an American is tied to an idea of freedom and limitless opportunity (both real and imagined) that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere in the world.
 
What do you appreciate the most about being a U.S. citizen? Freedom of speech and religion.
 
Finish this sentence: “I believe my citizenship counts as an American because the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution and way of life provide all citizens with a political, cultural and social voice that has no limits.”
 
How has your U.S. citizenship changed your life? Becoming an American has allowed me to vie for and obtain professional and cultural opportunities that aren’t available anywhere else in the world.
 
How would you describe about the value of being American to today’s youth? Embrace all that is good about America and being American, and learn about our country’s great history. 

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