New American Student Spotlight: Carlota Zetino Tovar

March 9, 2021


Sioux Falls is filled with generous businesses and organizations that partner together to better serve the people living in this city. One such business is Xcel Energy. Xcel Energy has supported high-level adult ESL education here at the LSS Center for New Americans for over 10 years. One way we thought we’d say “Thank you!” is by highlighting one of our most dedicated students, Carlota Zetino Tovar. Carlota has graduated into our high level speaking, writing, and citizenship classes, and because of grant support from Xcel Energy, she gets the opportunity to learn daily by working on her literacy and vocabulary skills.

Carlota in Zoom English Class


After our Zoom class, Carlota stayed on the computer with me so I could ask her some questions about her life and her commitment to her education.


Carlota is originally from Santa Ana, El Salvador – “the little country in Central America,” she tells me, and she came to Sioux Falls seven years ago. I asked her why she came to the US, and her answer was family. “My family lives here in Sioux Falls. Only me … was staying in El Salvador. They helped me for immigration to the United States.” Carlota has five sisters in Sioux Falls, and her husband has very recently come to live permanently with her here. “My husband says he is too old to try this new living, but I am happy he is here.” Now Carlota has her whole family near her.

Before Carlota came to South Dakota, she worked for thirty-two impressive years in the Santa Ana health care industry. She was a nurse for twelve years and then worked as a psychologist for twenty years. Her caring and capable nature certainly shines through in the classroom, and it’s easy to see her as a caregiver. Carlota currently works in a cafeteria and she was recently moved to the cashier position because her English skills have improved so much

Carlota started taking English classes at LSS because of language barriers she wanted to overcome. “I need English classes for more opportunities for work. It’s necessary for different relationships everywhere: for the business, for the bank, for the clinic.”


Carlota is very happy to be living in Sioux Falls. “Yes, I like it! It’s a beautiful city, it’s little. For me, it’s not dangerous. There is no problem for the traffic. It’s different than a big city. I am liking Sioux Falls very much.”
Carlota has a big goal she is working toward: getting her American citizenship. She is currently taking citizenship classes on the weekends studying American history, government, and the N400 interview. “I am grateful I can study the citizenship. It’s important for me. When I get my citizenship, I will have more opportunities. For example, for voting, for choosing the president.”


Carlota is a shining example of a motivated and empowered ESL student. The LSS Center for New Americans is thankful for Xcel Energy for helping make Carlota’s dreams a reality!

Thank you, Xcel Energy!

Written By:

Lindy Obach, ESL Instructor
LSS Center for New Americans
P: 605-731-2000
300 E. 6th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57105
LssSD.org

Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities


When We Reach Our Dreams! New Citizens in South Dakota

November 12, 2019

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LSS Teachers pose with two new American citizens after the ceremony

September 6, 2019, was a magnificent day for many reasons.  For starters, it is was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, a reminder of our quickly ending summer.  Secondly, on that day 200 people from 37 different countries became United States citizens right here in Sioux Falls.

Just what does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?  It says on my passport that I am a citizen of the United States, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I know that my ancestors loved other countries: Germany, Norway, Prussia, and England.  However, although these places are intriguing for me, I have pride and love for only one country, the United States of America.

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Two New American Citizens pose with the American Flag

The same goes for our new citizens.  They have pride and love for this new country.  To come to this country, they left behind everything they knew and loved in hopes to start a new life, a better life, a safer life, and to be part of the American dream.  As the keynote speaker fittingly said, it is with utmost dedication and determination that people are willing to leave their homeland, their “most sacred,” to come to America.

So as I watched 200 new citizens swear the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, I found it very fitting that the opening speaker had mentioned the stamina and determination of their own ancestors and had admonished, “I really hope you never lose that internal resolve that brought you here to the United States.”

A New American citizen folds the flag to the National Anthem

 

Then later as the mayor spoke, I had to agree with him that our community is full of diversity and that our “new citizens have a voice and responsibility to participate,” and to be “a part of this city, this community,” through voting, mentoring, and volunteering.

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103

1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


Mount Rushmore Ceremony Brings Hope to Sioux Falls Refugees

July 20, 2018

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Mount Rushmore, June 14, 2018, a majestic view for a remarkable day

Flag Day, June 14, 2018, was a joyous occasion for many refugees and immigrants from South Dakota. The day itself was beautiful, sunshiny, and a wonderful welcome for the 168 new citizens who participated in the naturalization ceremony at Mount Rushmore.

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New Citizens of the United States take the Oath of Allegiance during their Naturalization Ceremony

Forty-one countries were represented at the ceremony, including American Samoa, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Iraq, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

 
Presiding over the ceremony, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Viken, expressed, “What you have done by choosing to become citizens is to enrich and strengthen all of us. And now we are one. Welcome home.”

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Prithi and Ninga Tamang at Naturalization Ceremony

Several students of the Center for New Americans, among them were students Prithi and Ninga Tamang, from Bhutan, their son, and daughter-in-law. After becoming a citizen, Ninga says, “I love America and everything about here! Being American citizen gives us hope of bright future and life long satisfaction. Because once we were refugee and lost hope of better life but now everything seems all right and happier than before. I got opportunity to see different country, people and experience their beautiful culture. My children have excellent life here.”  During the ceremony, their son expressed his appreciation, “I am a refugee, and actually I never had citizenship.  This is my first time.  I’m very proud.  Thank you America!”

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A very happy student Ty Nguon poses in front of Mount Rushmore with his citizenship certificate

LSS Citizenship Instructor John Haraldson commented, “It gives them hope because they feel like they are a part of the country they are living in. They feel like they are safe and more connected to America. For some students, it is their first time ever having citizenship anywhere. It is very special for them.”

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Presentation of the Colors at the 2018 Mount Rushmore Naturalization Ceremony

Also among the new citizens was former LSS instructor, Kristin Kuchenbecker. After the ceremony, she commented that it was a “great day for all 168 of us. All people sworn in today had remarkable stories.” Like many new Americans, she says that her reasons for becoming a United States citizen was multi-fold, but she is definitely looking forward to participating in our democracy instead of only talking about it. Kristin says, “There is no place like [the United States] in terms of diversity and that should be celebrated daily!”

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Magistrate Judge Wollman, Kristin Kuckenbecker, and Chief Judge Viken

 

As we celebrate freedom this month, we are happy to welcome all our new citizens and hope for a great future for them!

Written by Heather Glidewell, LSS ESL and Citizenship Instructor


Hope for the Future (Citizenship Classes)

July 10, 2018

Statue of Liberty

photo courtesy of sharemomentssharelife

On July 4, 1776 marked the adoption of the Declaration of Independence which declared the United States of America a new country free from foreign rule and it marked an important event during the American Revolutionary War. In addition it stated that those who chose to live as citizens in this new country had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As a native born citizen, I have always felt a connection to July 4. Not only was I born in 1976, the bicentennial of our country, I even have a nephew who was born on July 4. However, the biggest connection is that I, like many Americans, believe in the hope that comes with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I find it a wonderful privilege to teach citizenship classes to students at the Center for New Americans. Four times a week I am greeted with eager, hopeful students who wish to learn and become a citizen.
Luida and her husband are a couple of the students who attended Citizenship classes at CNA. On July 2 Luida passed her Citizenship interview, an essential step in fulfilling the hope to be a citizen of the United States. Luida was so excited that she brought a beautiful Ukrainian Honey Cake as a thank you and in celebration of the Fourth of July, which has taken on even more meaning for her and her family now.

Luida's cake

Another student, Mar, also just recently passed her interview and is excitedly waiting for her ceremony in August. Mar says that she did not learn to read or write English until she came to the United States. She is so very thankful for the intelligent, caring teachers at LSS that have helped her achieve her goals of learning English and becoming a citizen. She says, “LSS teachers are smart, now I am smart. I am so happy! I can’t believe it!”
LSS provides citizenship classes to immigrants and refugees that qualify to apply for citizenship. Currently the Center for New Americans is serving approximately 200 students who diligently come to evening, early morning, or weekend classes.
What does it take to become a U.S. Citizen?
The U.S. naturalization process is an expensive and difficult process. Candidates for naturalization need to undergo and pass an intensive interview in English.
Candidates must then undergo an oral examination on U.S. history and government where they must listen to and correctly answer six out of ten questions that are randomly chosen from 100 possible civics, history, and geography questions.

Would you pass?

The USCIS has an online practice test: https://my.uscis.gov/prep/test/civics
Finally candidates are required to demonstrate their English reading and writing ability. Candidates must pass all three exams before being recommended for citizenship (naturalization).

For Free Citizenship Classes starting in July 2018:
You can receive free citizenship classes if you bring your green card. LSS will be enrolling new students the evening of July 12 and the morning of July 28 for citizenship classes. Call 731-2000 to schedule an enrollment appointment for the next class session.
To be a Citizenship Class or ESL Class volunteer: Contact Kristyne Duffy at Kristyne.Duffy@lsssd.org.
Want help filling out the “citizenship application” or N-400?
Call 731-2000 to schedule an appointment with an immigration attorney for reduced or free rates.
Want to know more about the process of becoming a citizen?
Visit the USCIS website https://www.uscis.gov/ for details.

 

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL and Citizenship Instructor


Remembering

January 16, 2018

“What movement tried to end racial discrimination?” The Civil Rights Movement
“What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?” Fought for civil rights

As a Citizenship Class instructor, I have the privilege of sharing about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. every session. Before discussing the 1960s, we cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The focus then jumps to World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before moving to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The history questions for the Naturalization Interview do not hide the long history of slavery in the United States. Students learn early in the session that slavery existed in the “thirteen original colonies.”

“What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?” People from Africa

To help students understand “racial discrimination” and what life was like in the United States for many African Americans following the Civil War and during the time of Dr. King, we often look at the infamous pictures of segregated water fountains and bathrooms. I tend to avoid the darker pictures of lynchings and angry mobs, not wanting to rouse any post-traumatic stress in our refugee and immigrant clients.

In reality, they “know” discrimination in a much deeper sense than me, their instructor. Many experienced racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in their own countries. The Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan, the Kunama refugees from Eritrea, the Karen and Karenni refugees from Myanmar and many other minority groups that we serve at the Center for New Americans fled or were expelled from unbearable conditions.

 

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(Photo courtesy of AND JUSTICE FOR ALL)

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the lines above in 1963 from where he sat in a Birmingham jail following mass demonstrations of organized civil disobedience. Its truth rang loudly when it was first read, and continues to resonate reality today. I love my job and I love interacting with and learning more about my students, but their daily presence is also a stark reminder that gross injustices have occurred and continue to occur in many of their countries. I am grateful they now live in the United States without fearing for their lives. I am grateful for the rights guaranteed them and protecting them in the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but I wonder about their family and friends not here…those still in the refugee camps, those still in their native countries. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My students remind me that we are all responsible for each other.

Written by Kadie Becker; Reposted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


On the Road to Citizenship!

August 1, 2017

On Friday and Saturday mornings, something special takes place at the Center for New Americans. As soon as the doors open, about 100 adult students show up, eager, happy, and ready to work.  There are always lots of smiles and laughter, but the students come for some very serious work.

All of these students are refugees and immigrants who have lived in the United States for the past year or more, and now they want the opportunity to become citizens of this country where they have felt welcomed and secure, raised their families, paid taxes, and grown to love. These super dedicated students take time out of their lives, their work schedules, their families, to come and learn about U.S. history, U.S. civics, and U.S. geography.  Students learn how to read and write English and build confidence in their listening and speaking skills. They faithfully come to Citizenship class, because they all share the hope and dream of becoming a citizen themselves…some day!

Sitting alongside these students are classroom volunteers. Just like the students they help, these volunteers set aside time out of their busy weekly schedules to make a difference. Being a volunteer is an invaluable experience.  Here are a few of the benefits of being a volunteer:

  • Enjoy helping others learn
  • Give back to the community
  • Become aware of needs in the community
  • Share valuable skills and knowledge
  • Learn about new cultures
  • Help people understand American culture, history, and the English language
  • Build bridges across cultures
  • Make new friends
  • Discover and build new skills and ideas
  • Have an overall positive experience

What does it take to become a U.S. Citizen?

The U.S. naturalization process is an expensive and difficult process. Candidates for naturalization need to undergo and pass an intensive interview in English.

Candidates must then undergo an oral examination on U.S. history and government where they must listen to and correctly answer six out of ten questions that are randomly chosen from 100 possible civics, history, and geography questions. Would you pass? The USCIS has an online practice test: https://my.uscis.gov/prep/test/civics

Finally candidates are required to demonstrate their English reading and writing ability. Candidates must pass all three exams before being recommended for citizenship (naturalization).

Want to be a citizenship classroom volunteer?

Contact Kristyne.Walth@lsssd.org.

Need free citizenship classes?

You can receive free citizenship classes if you bring your green card. Call 731-2000 to schedule an enrollment appointment for the next class session.

Want help filling out the “citizenship application” or N-400?

Call 731-2000 to schedule an appointment with an immigration attorney for reduced or free rates.

Want to know more about the process of becoming a citizen?

Visit the USCIS website https://www.uscis.gov/ for details.

Written by Heather Glidewell

 


Citizenship With a View

June 30, 2017

 

 

 

 

For more than ten years U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Park Service have partnered to welcome New Americans. Every year dozens of naturalization ceremonies take place in the midst of the scenic landscapes and majestic views of the country’s national parks. And South Dakota is no exception. The ceremonies at the Mount Rushmore National Monument have grown in size, from 60 new citizens in 2007 to 180 in 2017. However, depending on where in the state you live, getting to the ceremony isn’t always that easy. Often money and transportation are major issues. But this year citizenship candidates from Sioux Falls had a smooth ride. Lutheran Social Services’ Center for New Americans was able to charter a bus, made possible through a generous donation from the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Chilton Chapter, Sioux Falls. So, on June 15, at 3:15 AM a bus full of tired but excited citizenship candidates with family, friends and CNA staff, including myself, set out across the state to Mount Rushmore. It seemed like a quick ride. The weather was fully cooperating – sunny skies, just a little breeze. The area was bustling with activity. It felt like a mini United Nations. People from over 40 different countries were coming together in this breathtaking scenery under the ‘faces’ in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The sat down on the stone benches of the Amphi Theatre as Green Card holders – and they stood up as new citizens of the United States. They walked across the stage and told us their name, what country they came from and how incredibly proud they were to now be citizens of the United States. And we got on the bus again to start the journey home, again a bus full of tired but excited people. Only now we have a group of New American citizens in our midst.

 

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor

 


Adult English Learners from Fourteen Nations Visit the South Dakota Capital

March 22, 2017

Students and government officials pose for picture inside the capital building

 

53 adult English language learners from the LSS Center for New Americans had the privilege of visiting South Dakota’s capitol this month. This is such an exciting opportunity for our students that we received 100 applications for these 53 seats.

These 53 learners are from 14 different countries: Burma, Guatemala, China, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bhutan/Nepal, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Mexico and El Salvador.

About 60% of these LSS adult learners came to the US with refugee status. About 40% came as immigrants.

The goals of these learners are:

  • To become self sufficient communicators in English
  • To get jobs and advance to higher education and training
  • To become United States Citizens

 

This civics education field trip was sponsored by the Department of Labor and Regulation. The Department partners with the LSS Center for New Americans to provide adult education and literacy services in the Sioux Falls community.

The learners visited with legislators, toured the capital building, observed proceedings in the house and senate chambers and visited the Cultural Heritage Center.

On the Steps of the South Dakota Capital Building

 

Touring the Cultural Heritage Center

Having fled the impacts of persecution and injustice, the adult learners deeply treasure the freedoms and democracy of this great nation and the great state of South Dakota. It is, in fact, a dream come true for them to visit our state capitol. They are grateful to be residents of South Dakota, to have the opportunity to raise their families, work and contribute to a safe and welcoming new home.

written by Laura Smith-Hill, Education Program Coordinator


Everybody Has a Story

December 5, 2016

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konnichiwa ~ al salaam a’alaykum ~ mydokumbay ~ tibuy ~  preevyit ~  jambo ~ni hao ~ hola ~ dananish ~ salamnish ~ bonjeur ~ chào bạn ~ mbote ~ yambu ~ habari ~ is ka warren ~ sampurasun ~ min-ga-la-ba ~  sannu

Every day I hear “Hello” in a dozen or more different languages because I have the privilege and honor to work with many students from many different countries. One of the questions I get asked the most is, “Where do your students come from?”  This is a very difficult question to answer because my students don’t just come from a “place,” but they come from a story, they come from a dream, and they are still working towards that dream.

To help answer this question, some of my lit 3 students wrote about their “stories.”

 

Our Stories

I’m from Bhutan. My job in my country was a farmer.  I feel my country is small but beautiful.  The government is not good, but the country is a beautiful place!  My country has fighting.

I came to America for safety and freedom. I came to America by plane.  I left the refugee camp three years [ago].  I went to first Idaho.  I bought a ticket and went to Sioux Falls.

I will go to learn English before I get a job. My dream is to get citizenship.  I felt nervous [when I first came to America].  I feel good now.  I like best [that] my life is safe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m from Ethiopia. I like Ethiopia, but there are problems.  I lived in my country for 19 years.  I had family in America.  I came to America on Oct. 2, 2013.  I came on a plane.  I came with one family member.

I left my country two years ago. I came first to Washington, D.C. and I flew to Sioux Falls.  I came to Sioux Falls by plane.

In America I will get a job. My dream is I will be happy.  At first I felt not good in America.  Now I feel good.  I like people because they are nice.  I like my job.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am from Guatemala. A friend drove me to America.  I don’t like to live in Guatemala because too much fighting.

[Now in America] I want to help my family. I want to build my house.  I was so sad [when I first came to America].  I am happy [now] because I live with my brothers.  I like work.  I like Inglish class. Inglish is important in America.

 

As we prepare for this holiday season, let us remember our own roots. We are the great-grandsons and grand-daughters of hopes and dreams.  We are the products of determination and hard work.  Today’s refugees and immigrants are full of the same hopes and dreams, the same determination to live a better, safer life.

 

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


LSS is Awarded USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant

November 3, 2016

Canab and Paulina Became US Citizens This Year Through the USCIS Grant

Canab and Paulina became US Citizens this year through the USCIS Grant

The LSS Center for New Americans program was one of more than 160 applicants for the 2016 USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant which provides Citizenship instruction and naturalization application assistance at free and reduced rates.

The LSS Center for New Americans was one of the 46 elite programs to obtain this very competitive grant and has had a track record for maintaining high-quality education and naturalization services for three previous grant cycles.

What does this mean to immigrants in South Dakota?

  • Free Citizenship Classes at three levels of instruction: Citizenship Class 1, 2 and 3.

When students successfully complete Citizenship Class 3 they are ready to pass the rigors of the naturalization interview. These classes are for any legal permanent residents (Green Card holders) in the community. This grant also provides classes for immigrants living in Huron and Aberdeen.

  • Reduced rates for attorney assistance in the naturalization process, or as we like to tell our clients, “Citizenship on Sale!”

For only $50 a legal permanent resident with five years of residence in the USA will have the assistance of an attorney to complete the N-400 naturalization application. Applicants who meet low-income guidelines will receive attorney assistance for free and a fee waiver for the federal application fee. The immigration attorneys take appointments in Sioux Falls, Huron and Aberdeen.

This grant serves about 200 legal permanent residents each year in Citizenship Classes and about 300 per year with naturalization services.

Any legal permanent resident interested in classes or application help can call 731-2000 to make an appointment.

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LSS Citizenship and Civics students learn about American systems of government in South Dakota’s Capitol


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