New citizens join Jacksonville community at World Refugee Day celebration


New Jacksonville mayor-elect Lenny Curry won’t be sworn into office until July 1, but some of his very newest constituents enjoyed a swearing-in ceremony of their own on a sweltering June morning at the city’s downtown main library.

Jacksonville’s World Refugee Day celebration began with a Naturalization Ceremony at the library, followed by a children’s parade in Hemming Park featuring performances from the city’s large and diverse refugee community.

“We receive refugees from all over the world. Iraq, Cuba are major populations. We also have Burmese, Sudanese, and Somali refugees. We have people from Russia and Afghanistan. The goal for us is for our clients to be economically self-sufficient, to get a job as soon as possible,” said Frances Luna, refugee resettlement job developer with Catholic Charities. Luna spoke during an appearance on WJCT’s First Coast Connect. 

The refugee celebration is held annually, thanks to the combined efforts of Catholic Charities and other local resettlement agencies. Over the last five years, more than 5,000 individuals fleeing strife across the globe have sought asylum in Duval County.

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


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