At 72 years old, learning a new language and studying civics three days a week for several months, is no small feat. Palak, a refugee from Bhutan, did that and more. He passed his naturalization exam, took the Oath of Allegiance and became an American citizen!

Palak is among the more than 250 students who have successfully graduated from Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas’ Citizenship Preparation Program. Since the program’s inception in 2014, more than 700 students have enrolled in the classes, offered free of charge.

Three levels of 10-week classes are available from pre-beginner to intermediate literacy. Each curriculum is relevant to the naturalization exam and includes instruction in reading, writing, speaking and listening in English. In addition, students study the required Civics and American History needed to successfully pass the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) 100 civics questions.

The classes are more than just a review of the questions, however. “Students are taught about the U.S. government, and how they can participate in the democracy that their new country provides,” says Tracy Forbush, Manager, Citizenship and Refugee School Impact Programs.

Some of the learning takes place outside of the classroom. Students have the opportunity to attend field trips to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the National World War I Museum, the federal courthouse where naturalization ceremonies take place and even to the state capitol in Topeka. These field trips include tailored lesson plans that help reinforce the civics and English content taught in class.

Due to class sizes, volunteer tutors are always a welcome addition to the classroom. Tutors work with small groups of adults helping them learn relevant content in a fun, engaging atmosphere. Classes are offered in the morning, afternoon and evening.

For more information about the classes, or for tutor volunteer opportunities, go