Faces of new citizens

Meet just a few of the country's newest US citizens

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Wendy Zhou

Wendy Zhou came to the U.S. from the city of Qingdao in China as a graduate student in 1995.

The U.S. has advanced technology, Zhou said. Careerwise, the U.S. offers more opportunities.

Zhou earned a master’s in geologic engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, then went on to earn her PhD from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

She is now an associate professor of geologic engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden — where she has been for the past eight years.

“This is a very important day of my life,” Zhou said. “I’m very proud to become a citizen of the United States.”

Patricia Barraza


Patricia Barraza, 39, is from Chihuahua, Mexico, but has lived in Colorado for about half her life. She currently lives in Westminster and has two children ages 20 and 13.

She wanted to become a citizen so she would have the right to vote.

“It’s important because elections are coming up,” Barraza said.

She urges everyone who is eligible to “become a part of this beautiful country.”

Barraza’s husband, Alfredo, who is from Jalisco, Mexico, earned his citizenship a few years ago. It’s good for the entire family that she also has her citizenship, he said of his wife.

“Everything that is good for her is good for me,” he said. “Because we are family.”

And Patricia added, jokingly, now the family of four can all stand in the same line when going through customs at the airport.

Cesar Nufio


Cesar Nufio has lived in the U.S. since he was 6 years old. He was born in Guatemala, raised in Los Angeles and has lived in Colorado for 15 years. He now lives with his family in Broomfield.

“I just realized that this is my home,” he said.

One of the main reasons Nufio wanted to have U.S. citizenship is because he wanted to participate in politics.

Nufio married his wife, Dena Smith, 21 years ago. And now that he has citizenship, Smith is going to change her last name, she said.

José Ceballos


Jose Ceballos’ father wanted to raise his family in a place where his children would grow up with better opportunities.

The family comes from Zacatecas, Mexico, and Ceballos, 38, has been in Colorado since 1997. He lives in Commerce City and has a flooring business.

“Everyone in my family is a citizen,” he said. “And,” he added, “I wanted to be able to vote.”

Susam Encalade


Susam Encalade, 28, is studying nutrition at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She will graduate in spring 2017 and is planning to go into public health.

Encalade, from Lima, Peru, has lived in Denver for about 10 years.

“After becoming a permanent resident, this was just the next step,” she said. She’s “proud to take the step forward to become a citizen.”

A lot goes into attaining citizenship, Encalade said. She received a lot of support from her family through the process.

In fact, it was her husband Donnell who encouraged her to apply.

“And,” she said, “it’s worth it.”

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