LAKEWOOD, Ohio — The Cleveland History Center in University Circle served as the backdrop for a recent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service ceremony.
“We collect and safeguard and make accessible all the stories of the people of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, people who have come here over the last century and a half and have made the city what it is,” said Kelly Falcone, President Western Reserve Historical Society.
“We think it is fitting we can share in the special day,” she said.
More than two dozen took part in the ceremony including Jizwell Youssef, a refugee from Syria.
She fled her country with her family and the clothes on her back and came to Northeast Ohio. That was more than three years ago.
“Oh my God, my life has changed,” said Youssef.
Youssef left behind the chocolate shop she owned and loved, and the only life she knew.
Now, she is building a new life here.
“This year is so beautiful to me, buy a house, got my citizenship but I lost my dad,” said Youssef.
She works three jobs - one at a department store, she runs Just Sweets by Jizwell where she sells handmade, detailed decorated cookies and she works at Sweet Designs Chocolatier in Lakewood.
Her cookies prominently displayed in the shop with the blessings of the owner.
The woman who owns the chocolate shop, Ines Rehner, understands what it’s like to leave one country for another.
“This week, it’s 30 years, I came to this country,” Rehner said.
Now, it's her mission to pay it forward. Rehner sees a lot of herself in Youssef.
“When we come to this country, we come with a dream," said Rehner. "We will work hard to make the country proud."
Youssef is living the American dream, grateful to Rehner and very thankful.
“Thank you, United States,” said Youssef.