Even before Juanita Londono was officially a citizen of this country, she knew she wanted to serve it.
The recent Marietta High School graduate was born in Colombia and moved here with her family when she was about 9. After pursuing citizenship for years, she took the oath in 2013.
“I don’t remember much of Colombia,” she said. “This is my home and I finally felt really part of it.”
In just a few weeks, Londono will start her path to become part of the nation’s defense system, when she reports for duty at the U.S. Air Force Preparatory School in Colorado. Her goal is to serve with the U.S. Air Force in a diplomatic capacity.
“I do want to fly,” she said. “I want to learn how to fly planes and helicopters but that’s not what I want to do as a profession. I feel like that’s too much of an individual thing to do and I like working with people.”
Her affinity for teamwork was much in evidence during her time at Marietta High School. The International Baccalaureate graduate was a member of the National Honor Society, the Math Honor Society, the Beta Club, the Kitty Hawk Honor Society and was a varsity cross country and track athlete while maintaining an impressive GPA.
“Juanita is an incredible young woman and the embodiment of the American story,” said Marietta High School principal Leigh Colburn. “She is resilient, optimistic, hard-working, enthusiastic, uncommonly patriotic, and intensely grateful to be an American citizen. She is a first-generation American living through the first chapters of what I know will be a success story.”
Colburn attended Londono’s citizenship ceremony.
“I have rarely seen a countenance that more clearly and simultaneously projected joy, pride, and a sense of belonging,” Colburn said. “She has not only embraced the spirit and opportunity within our high school, she has embraced the pride and culture of our country.”
Londono’s family moved here, where other relatives already had legally immigrated, because they felt unsafe in her native country. From the beginning, the United States of America struck her as a place where she could be and do anything.
“Being an American means being able to follow what you want to do and take advantage of all the opportunities that you get,” she said. “Not every country offers as many opportunities. What I love about this country is you get to chase your own dreams. If you don’t get to where you want to be it’s kind of your own fault.”
While at Marietta High School she was active in Air Force Junior ROTC, where one of her favorite daily activities was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We say it with meaning,” she said. “We emphasize every single world. This is a great country.”