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
November 3, 2016
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.
LSS Citizenship and Civics students learn about American systems of government in South Dakota’s Capitol
May 18, 2016
I’m a Volunteer… What’s your superpower? That’s what the Helpline Center asked last Thursday, May 12th during the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon. The annual event celebrates those individuals in the community who share their superpower and help others by volunteering. One outstanding volunteer that we want to give a special congratulation to is Eric Rippentrop. Eric was named the First National Bank in Sioux Falls Spirit of Volunteerism Up and Coming Award winner in the Adult category at the luncheon on Thursday for his work at LSS Center for New Americans. Winners of the Spirit of Volunteerism Awards received a special award plague and received $500 to be awarded to a non-profit or charitable organization of their choice.
Showing off his superpowers with Instructor Diana Calvetti-Streleck and Volunteer Coordinator Kristyne Walth at the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.
Eric is a regular face in the Center for New American’s Citizenship classrooms every Friday and Saturday morning. You may also remember him from our blog back in February. He has spent over 100 hours over the last year helping students acquire the English fluency and knowledge that is required for a citizenship interview and test. Instructor Diana Calvetti-Streleck says that, “Without Eric’s help in the classroom, my group of more than 35 low-level English learners would not receive the one-on-one practice they need to overcome their anxiety of speaking English to answer oral questions.” Eric has been a wonderful volunteer and we cannot thank him enough for his time, energy and encouraging words.
Eric with his award.
However, if you asked Eric, he would tell you that he feels that he “gets more from volunteering than he could ever hope to give.” And in an effort to give more, he has chosen LSS Center for New Americans as the non-profit organization to receive the $500 award.
Please help us congratulate and better yet, thank Eric and all of the other winners, nominees, and volunteers in the Sioux Empire for sharing their superpower to help others. And lastly, we ask you too, what’s your superpower?
Written by Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator