Citizenship Classes Grow at Carthage Public Library

Citizenship Classes Grow at Carthage Public Library
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The Carthage Public Library prepares to reapply for grants supporting its Citizenship Classes.

The current class will take a field trip next week to attend a ceremony in Springfield to see a Carthage woman become a United States Citizen.
She prepared for her naturalization test and interview through a program at the Carthage public library.

“Who serves for six years?” Pat Wakefield quizzed a student on one of the one hundred questions the citizenship class practices.

Miguel Angel Osorio Perez answered, “The senator.”
Students work in three hour sessions on Monday evenings and Wednesday early afternoons.
Recent graduate Alicia Mojica who moved to the United States from El Salvador due to gangs years ago, becomes a citizen next week.

She said, “I love my country, but I love this country. And I want to be here. I want to help. I want, to me United States is my country now.”

Mojica said memorizing the one hundred questions was really hard.

For others its getting over the language barrier. A Missouri State Library Literacy grant pays Pat Wakefield’s salary as she gives English lessons to also help prepare them for naturalization exams. She said, “They don’t have to have perfect English to pass the interview but they do have to have enough English to answer the questions and make small talk.”

Wakefield gets help from Rhonda Wyrsch , a former history teacher who also works now with migrant and immigrant students in Carthage schools. She said she’d always dreamed of helping some become a citizen and it’s important for adults to lead the way.

Wyrsch said, “If that parent sets a good example: I want to become an citizen, I want to learn English, I want to do what I need to do to become an American citizen, then that sets the tone for those kids in schools.”

The library’s program has had twenty graduates so far and in March will reapply for grants that fund and support it.

Library Director Julie Yockey explained, “It comes to about twenty thousand dollars a year for wages incidentals and scholarships.”

The naturalization test cost about eight hundred dollars and fifty percent seek help paying for it.

Wakefield translated why students said they want to become citizens. Aleyda Hernandez said, “In her family she’s the only one who isn’t. So she feels it will mean the completion of her family. And in her family she will feel more secure.”

Maria Esther Ourqieta said through Wakefield, “She would like to be able to vote and have a voice in the place where she lives. And also to have a better future for herself and her children. ”

Miguel got emotional about getting closer to reaching his goal of becoming a citizen. In tears he said, “Thank American people for giving me opportunity to…I’m sorry.” Miguel said he is happy in the United States and for freedom.

A Steadley Trust grant provides for books and technology and the cost share for the testing.
The group has even taken field trips to the Missouri state capitol. The citizenship class meets Mondays and Wednesdays.