ST. CLOUD -- An exhibit featuring over a dozen stories of people trying to make it in the United States as a 1st Generation Immigrant or Refugee is coming to the Whitney Senior Center.

"Green Card Voices" in a non-profit founded in the Twin Cities back in 2013. They use a digital storytelling medium to share the experiences of people new to America.

Natalie Ringsmuth, Founder of #UNITECLOUD says they've been working on bringing the exhibit here for years, mainly through community contacts to find the right people.

"Just through community contacts, and some people telling other people, we found the storytellers like Ulises. Who was [one of the ones] willing to tell us their story. Each story features where the person's from, why they came to central Minnesota and what their hopes are for the future."

One of those storytellers is Ulises Ayala, who was born in Mexico in the 70s and came to the U.S. illegally in 1989, when he was in 6th grade. Since then he's paid his way through several schools, became a legal resident and a soldier in the National Guard.

After settling in Cold Spring with his wife 16 years ago, he's grown to love central Minnesota, staying here while working for the guard, and on his higher education.

"Joined the National Guard after I became a legal resident, [I did] two tours overseas, worked for the guard full time, finished my college degree, working on my masters, and just accepted to a Ph.D. program just recently. So why not stay, it's a great place. "

Ayala says, becoming a citizen was a surreal moment for him, especially when asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to make it official.

"You get to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Even though I recited that pledge multiple times during high school and middle school, but, it has a meaning. I wish everyone had to go through that. Not the legal process, but to get sworn in as a U.S. citizen. It's an experience I'll never forget."

Ayala is a Captain in the National Guard and lives in St. Joseph with his family.

The exhibit will have its first open house Friday from 4:00 p.m. -- 6:00 p.m. It will then be available for viewing any time the Whitney Senior Center is open, through the rest of January.

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