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“I feel that I belong to this country, and I am so happy!” exclaimed Akram Karimino.

Akram was among the 24 students from Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas’ Citizenship Preparation Program who became an American citizen last week. They represented Burma, Bhutan, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq and Mexico. A total of 423 people from 69 countries became new citizens together.

Like Akram, others were overjoyed as their dream of becoming an American citizen came true. “I’m so happy, so proud of myself… it means a lot. It means a lot as a person, as a citizen; there was a lot of things I wasn’t able to do before, but now I can do. Mostly I am so happy to be a United States citizen,” explained Guadalupe Duran.

The students were especially thankful for Catholic Charities’ Citizenship program. Juan Munoz stated, “Thank you everyone for your hard work. We passed!”

Since its inception, a total of 300 have successfully graduated from the program. “Many of our students are refugees who have never been officially considered a citizen of any country,” said Tracy Forbush, Manager, Citizenship and Refugee School Impact Programs. “The day they take the Oath of Allegiance is the first day of their lives that they are officially home. It’s such an honor to be part of that powerful day in their lives.”

The preparation program consists of three levels of 10-week classes that 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 and Immigration Services (USCIS) 100 civic questions.

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 to: catholiccharitiesks.org/citizenship-classes

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