By Matthew Jackson
The Huntsville Public Library is currently accepting applicants for its second annual Citizenship Training Program in partnership with the Sam Houston State University Political Science Junior Fellows.
The first session of this four-part training program will be Feb. 11. The sessions will continue each Wednesday until the final session on March 4. Each session will last approximately two hours, from 6:30-8 p.m., and will be held in the Council Chambers at Huntsville City Hall.
Richard Lane, literacy coordinator for the Huntsville Public Library and director of the program, has high hopes for the programs second year.
“We had about eight participants last year,” Lane said, “and at least two of those have become citizens since then. The thing that impressed me last year was the interaction with the adult citizenship candidates that came from the Junior Fellows. Mike Yawn and his students are just a great bunch of people to work with.”
While Lane and library intern Tania Hernandez will coordinate and organize the event, Yawn and the Junior Fellows will be responsible for the tutoring sessions themselves.
Each class will focus on a different aspect of the citizenship application process, with Yawn giving lecture-style presentations and the Junior Fellows providing one-on-one tutoring.
The first session will focus on eligibility requirements, the second on the application process, the third on the citizenship exam and the fourth on the oral interview.
According to Yawn and Lane, Hernandez, who is also a Junior Fellow, “will be taking a lead role in the planning and implementation of the program.”
The program is free of charge and open to anyone planning to apply for U.S. citizenship in the near future.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) requires individuals applying for citizenship to have lived legally in the United States for at least five years, or to have been legally married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years.
“They also look for people of good moral character, proficiency in English and an understanding of U.S. institutions, laws and history,” Lane said.
“There’s a lot of anxiety when it comes to studying and preparing for an exam like this,” Hernandez said. “To make that time and to be willing to study, that’s hard to do on your own, so we help give people the resources and the motivation to prepare.”
“The arrangement is highly rewarding,” Yawn said. “The immigrants move closer to becoming citizens. The community volunteers deepen their understanding of their government and history, develop a deeper appreciation of the privilege of citizenship, and learn more about other cultures. Last year, we had immigrants from Mexico, Germany, the Netherlands, and Pakistan. Everyone learned from everyone. “
All applicants to the program are required to have at least an intermediate level command of the English language. Those who do not are urged by Lane to enroll in literacy classes, which are also free of charge at the library.
Lane asked that all interested applicants register before Feb. 11 by contacting him at the library at (936) 291-5472.