Library Citizenship Classes Make American Dreams Come True

Among the many quality programs the Library offers is a special and exciting opportunity that grows our community—Johnson County Library’s U.S. citizenship class.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provides courses that library staff from the Language Learners Committee facilitate. These courses help prospective citizens learn about the “history, civics and government of the United States,” the committee explains.

Latino Services Outreach Librarian Christine Peterson is heavily involved in the classes that also prepare people for the 100 questions they will face when interviewed as part of the test. “Candidates for citizenship review the study materials, practice listening and responding to the citizenship interview questions, access online practice tests, and receive guidance throughout the application process,” said Peterson.

“Many residents in the U.S. want to complete their journey by becoming citizens. However, English is not their first language and they hesitate as to whether they can realize their dream.” Peterson said the program exemplifies JCL’s Mission and Vision by providing access to information regardless of race or background.

During 60-to-90-minute classes, candidates meet on Zoom to go through curriculum, review vocabulary and pronunciation, and prepare for the questions they will face. The program began in 2020, and Peterson said that eight candidates have become citizens since. Right now there are six people taking the class.

One of the current candidates, Douglas, had to leave Venezuela with his family because of the political circumstances there. “I am interested in obtaining American citizenship since I consider the United States my new homeland,” he said. He believes becoming a citizen will help him show thankfulness for the opportunity he has, and fulfill the duties of being an American alongside fellow citizens.

Douglas enjoys the interactive nature of the class, as well as learning about history, which he enjoyed doing throughout his education. “Studying history again, beautiful memories came to my mind,” he said. The biggest challenge he sees in the classes so far comes from civics discussions. “For example,” he said, "‘What stops a branch of government from becoming too powerful?’ A simple answer, but with a deep democratic base—a ‘system of checks and balances.’”

Staff work hard to help patrons with the lengthy N400 application the USCIS requires, including what Peterson said is the “daunting” task of assembling necessary documents and making sure they are translated.

Peterson said she enjoys learning about each candidate’s journey coming to America. “When I ask why they came to the United States, many respond, ‘Freedom’. It is surprising the stories they tell about their countries and the government they are leaving.” She said that the majority of candidates are from Latin American, but there are also several from the Middle East.