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KCK coach, entrepreneur shares story of becoming US citizen

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 18:02:42-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Saying the Oath of Allegiance, with your right hand up, while surrounded by family and then hearing "congratulations," is the moment many who navigate the U.S. immigration system dream of.

Raul Villegas was one of 360 people who took the oath to become a citizen of the United States on Wednesday at a ceremony in Lawrence, Kansas.

"When you see your country and your name, you feel really proud and you think, it worked out," Villegas said.

Villegas was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 11. His family then moved from California to Kansas City for better opportunities.

It was a conversation he had with his two boys on the way to the ceremony.

"I tell my kids, 'Think about what your grandparents went through, what I went through. You guys have to take advantage of this opportunity you have now as citizens,'" Villegas said.

Villegas embraced the immigrant spirit and made a mark in the Kansas City, Kansas community.

He founded Soccer Nation, a youth soccer club that trains and mentors players to compete in tournaments they may have never had the chance to.

Last summer, one of his teams became the first all-Latino team to win the Kansas cup. They went on to win second place in nationals.

Villegas also runs a couple businesses, including El Padrino, a party store at 7th Street & Central Avenue.

When he was starting Soccer Nation six years ago, Villegas didn't have all his legal documentation yet. His friends said he was crazy for investing all the money he did, because he could be here today and gone tomorrow. He said he continued anyway because there were kids he needed to help.

"At that time when I took the risk, I said, 'You know what, it's worth it.' And it has been," he said.

It took Villegas about eight years to accomplish his goal of becoming a citizen. For others it may take longer.

He went through several lawyers and spent thousands of dollars, but it meant making a better life for his family and those around him.

Becoming a citizen can cost $10,000 or more.

While the day was exciting for him and his family, he says there are still many others in the community who are fearful and need help. He says he wants to give other immigrants advice on where to go and who to turn to.

"If you want to really be consistent and work hard, I think you can achieve your dreams and that's how it happened," Villegas said.

After the ceremony on Wednesday, Villegas enjoyed a dinner with players and their families from the soccer academy then went back to work at El Padrino.

He's now applying for his passport with goals to travel to Europe with the team to expose them to new experiences.

The 360 citizenship candidates originate from the following 69 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, The Gambia, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen and Zambia.