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New citizen looks forward to voting in U.S. for first time

| Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 11:24 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Nicky Heller, a dining services manager for Redstone Highlands, was recently sworn in as a United States citizen.

While Nicky Heller still celebrates her native England's Boxing Day, the 36-year-old is finally looking forward to voting as an American citizen.

Heller of Mt. Pleasant came to the United States when she was just 6. And last month, she took her Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America in front of her family, friends, co-workers and clients at Redstone Highlands in Murrysville.

The dining service coordinator for the senior living community remembers her first day in the United States.

Mostly, she remembers being terrified.

Coming from Yorkshire, England, her family landed in Newark, N.J., on Halloween, a holiday not celebrated in England. When a woman dressed up as a witch came up to her and called her name, Heller went pale.

“I was so scared,” she said, laughing now at the memory. “There we were in America with this witch calling my name.”

Her father brought the family over when he found work in engineering for a mining company in Kentucky. When Heller moved to Greensburg at age 13, she had a mix of southern and English accents, which over time have disappeared. Heller attended Greensburg Salem High School and went on to attend Westmoreland County Community College.

Every 10 years, Heller renewed her green card, until this year when she decided she was ready to apply for citizenship.

Her children Dylan, 11, and Taylor, 7, helped her study American history every night before bed for the history and English test she would have to take.

Heller passed the test and her interview with flying colors, and the last step was taking that oath.

“I was teary-eyed,” she said of the ceremony. Her residents at Redstone were equally excited. “They're like my family.”

During the oath, Heller said she was “so serious,” but after she finished, she turned around and cheered, along with the 180 people gathered for her ceremony in Murrysville.

“Now I can say I'm an American,” she said.

Heller said she always wanted to become a citizen, but had been daunted by the application process and the $700 fee. Finally, this year, she took the plunge.

“I feel like this is my country. I plan to live my life here,” she said.

Heller is excited for her next out-of-country family vacation.

“Just to be able to stand in line as an American citizen at customs with my family” will be an exciting accomplishment, she said.

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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