Two days before Independence Day 2002, Sara Kiparizoska and her family moved from their native country of Macedonia and landed in the United States.
They took their first collective breath of American air on a sultry, scorching day in Mississippi - and nearly suffocated; but they've been breathing easier ever since.
Within months of starting school, Sara could speak English about as well as any 9-year-old, and over the next 14 years, she acquired a Southern accent, graduated from West Jones High School in Laurel, secured a scholarship to the University of Mississippi, enrolled in the school's Honors College, signed on as a lifestyles writer for The Daily Mississippian, took on the role of campus leader, joined a sorority, co-founded a business app, earned her bachelor's degree in biochemistry and won admission to medical school.
And in August she, along with her mother, father and sister, finally attained what she considers one of her most prestigious awards: U.S. citizenship.
“It was a family decision,” said Kiparizoska, 23, a first-year medical student. “It's something we're proud of, to officially become a part of a place that we've loved for so long.”