Each Spring the LEAP Center partners with the Huntsville Public Library to provide a free citizenship preparatory course to aid immigrants in their naturalization process. This year, our program covered late March and all of April, and after two years of COVID, we had a smaller sized–but enthusiastic–class, led by Professor Mike Yawn, HPL intern Jocelyn Vazquez (and her supervisor, Mary Kokot), and the LEAP Ambassadors as volunteers.
Overall, we had about a dozen members representing several countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, and Canada! For the first meeting, Professor Yawn had everyone introduce themselves before he discussed the process of becoming a citizen and gave a rundown of the course–as well as the Naturalization interview and exam.
The course runs for five weeks, with each week covering a different era or topic addressed by the Civics portion of the Naturalization Exam. Professor Yawn spends about 20 minutes going over an era or a topic, and then we, as volunteers, break into groups and work directly with the immigrants.
There are 100 questions that can be asked as part of the civics exam, and the USCIS officer will ask up to ten of them (randomly selected), with the immigrant needing to get six of them correct to pass. These questions can range from questions about US History, to questions about holidays, to questions about governmental structure or even geographic features of the country (e.g. “What is one of the two longest rivers in the United States?”).
This year, we had a couple of special guests. On Week Four, we had Rosa Martinez from USCIS come in on Zoom and answer questions.
And, on Week 5, we had immigration Robert Cates join us, and he proved to be a favorite of the class. He went through the nuances of the process, some pitfalls, and some tips for going through that process. The night was also pleasant, in that we had some catering done, including desserts by Sam’s Table.
We concluded this evening, and the formal portion of the course, with group photos.
But, additional work continues. Jessica and Morgan, for example, assisted one of the students on some last minute questions, and Roxana Woychesin earned her citizenship!
In addition, one of our volunteers and LEAP Ambassadors, Saara Maknojia, got the call for her interview shortly after our course ended.
In addition to being a morale boost for our volunteerism, it was also a good reminder that a lot of work goes into citizenship for those not born here, and that our rights and obligations should not be taken for granted!