Achieving American citizenship can be a lofty goal for new comers to the U.S., particularly if you do not speak, read, or write English very well. However it is achievable, as Adult Learning Center participant Clement has proved.
Five years ago, Clement made the difficult decision to leave his home and family in Nigeria. Like generations of immigrants before him, Clement was motivated to immigrate by the promise of a better life in the United States. “I had been dreaming of coming to the United States for a long time,” he said. “This is the land of opportunity.” Clement brought with him the skills and desire to work as a mechanic. “In Nigeria, I worked on big trucks. I would like to do that kind of work again.” However, immigrating to a new and unfamiliar country brings a whole new set of challenges.
Rather than continuing his career as a mechanic, Clement has been working at a liquor store since coming to the United States. “Because my education is poor, I cannot get a better job,” he explained. Not only did he have to master spoken English as a second language, Clement faced the challenge of learning basic literacy skills an adult. “I had to leave school at an early age,” he said, “so I never really learned how to read or write.” Clement recognized the importance of communication skills to success on the job. When he heard about the Greater Homewood Adult Learning Center on the radio, he jumped at the opportunity to continue his education and enrolled in a reading class.
Since coming to the Center, Clement has been working on building his reading and writing skills with the help of his teacher, Lucy. After a year of study, he felt prepared to take the naturalization test and applied for citizenship. Clement explained that his motivation to become a citizen was based on a desire to participate in the political process and vote, as well as the prospect of bringing his wife and three year old son to the United States.
When Lucy found out that Clement was planning to take the test, she volunteered her time to help him further. Clement is one of several learners whom Lucy has helped with the naturalization process. An immigrant herself, Lucy recalls, “Even though you know the information, there is a fear about passing because everyone tells you it’s going to be difficult. My desire is to take the fear out of the heart of people taking the test.” The two met for 30 minutes after class over the course of two months. Lucy supported Clement through every step of the process: filling out the initial application, locating the USCIS Application Support Center where applicants are fingerprinted, and rehearsing answers to common interview questions.
All of their hours of preparation paid off on the day of Clement’s interview. “I wasn’t nervous because Lucy told me what would happen,” he said. “I just remembered her advice to answer each question simply, one at a time.” First, Clement’s interviewer asked him some questions about the information on his application, and then she asked him to read and write a few sentences. Reflecting on what made his success possible, he commented, “Coming here really helped me a lot. Without that, I wouldn’t have known what to write.”
Lucy was the first person Clement called when he found out that he had been approved. He expressed deep gratitude for the help he has received at the Center. “This school has helped me very much,” he said. “I value coming here more than going to work, even though I don’t earn money, because I get a benefit in life. I learn skills that will help me get a better job.” Now that Clement has passed the naturalization test and become a citizen, he looks forward to continuing his studies at Greater Homewood and eventually pursuing a career as a mechanic in the United States. “Coming here equals the opportunity to continue my education,” he said. “I know that I can achieve many things here in the future.”
On November 28th, Clement was sworn in as an American citizen.