Staff photographers Damon Higgins and Richard Graulich contributed to this story.
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To describe May 22 as one of the biggest days of Cathy Ann Norton’s life might be an understatement.
In the morning, the Wellington—located in Southeast Florida—teen joined nearly 100 others in becoming naturalized United States citizens. Hours later, she graduated from high school, walking across the stage at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
“She will never forget this day,” said Norton’s mother, Euvaline Norton. “It’s two milestones in our lives that I think she will always remember May 22, 2014.”
Cathy Ann’s day began at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in suburban West Palm Beach, where she was among 98 candidates for naturalization from 37 countries. She moved with her family from Jamaica to South Florida in 2003.
“It’s surreal,” she said at the citizenship ceremony. “It’s an overwhelming feeling.”
Said Euvaline: “I’m very proud of her. I feel so happy because she worked so hard this year.”
Cathy Ann said she plans to attend a state college for two years, then transfer and enroll in a nursing program.
As she heard the cheers as her name was called at graduation, the reality of all that she had accomplished that day began to set in.
“I’m done with (high) school. I got my citizenship. This is where it all starts,” she said.