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

 


A Success Story

July 10, 2017

Nadifa

I first met Nadifa six years ago – a bright-eyed, inquisitive young girl. And today, with this blog, I am proud to introduce to you a still bright-eyed, inquisitive young lady: Nadifa, US citizen.

Born in the North African nation of Chad, Nadifa spent most of her life in Cameroon before coming to Sioux Falls with her parents, three brothers, three sisters and her grandmother. Nadifa was full of questions, she wanted to know everything, she wanted to learn everything she didn’t have the opportunity to learn back in Africa. Soon, her school enrolled her and her brother in a tutoring program to help with English and other subjects taught in American schools. I became their tutor. Nadifa’s brain was like a sponge, asking for more and more and more.

From the moment she set foot on American soil Nadifa was happy. Why? I asked her. Because, she said, everything is readily available here, we don’t have to walk for a long, long time just to pick up the bare necessities. And my whole family, we can all be together. And after 6 1/2 years in Sioux Falls, Nadifa is still happy. She values the educational opportunities available to her, as a woman, here in Sioux Falls. She graduated from high school and is continuing her education. She is studying sociology at USD, hoping to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and at the same time is working full-time as a food ambassador at Avera. She is proud of her independence – she has her own apartment, her own car and her own money – yet stays close to her family. Family, she says, is so very important, they are the best support system, they will always stick together.

After graduation, Nadifa hopes to find a job where she can help people – refugees, immigrants, actually anybody and everybody. She likes to keep busy. So, besides school and work, she volunteers at CNA as a classroom tutor, helping immigrants learn English, the first step to becoming a citizen. Was it important for her to become a citizen? Yes, definitely. I like living in the US, she says, and I feel much safer being a citizen. Going to high school here and learning about history and government helped her with preparing for the naturalization test.

And how is life different for young ladies here in the United States? She thinks that some of them take advantage of the freedom they have here. They are easily influenced by their peers and the local environment and they lose sight of their dreams and goals. She says she was raised to cover up – to cover her head and to cover her body with appropriate clothing. And she still dresses that way. In high school, she says, she was often teased by her peers, “Why don’t you upgrade to America?” But Nadifa didn’t feel the need to do that. She says, it’s important to feel comfortable with yourself, to always be yourself and do the right thing for yourself. And to never forget the value of family.

Always encourage – never criticize

Work hard and never stop dreaming

 

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor


Time for a Change

April 7, 2017

Spring is in the air! This morning I saw a bird singing on the parking ramp railing, and I even dared to wear sandals and capris this week.  Everywhere I look there is green grass poking up and any trace of snow has disappeared.  It’s certainly a time for renewing and growing.

Boxes, chairs, and tables ready for the big move to East Bank

 

With that being said, LSS Center for New Americans has been very busy this week packing for our move to the Campus on East Bank. After waiting, talking, touring, and waiting some more, it seems surreal to be packing up everything and moving into our new building.  Teachers and students alike are excited about the move.  For months students have been asking about the new building, and are so very eager to start this new chapter in their lives. Many students are happy about the little things (or maybe they are the big things) that will come with the new building such as a parking lot and a nearby bus stop.  Teachers are excited to have permanent classrooms and a place to call “ours.”

 

It is of course bittersweet to be leaving the building we have occupied for the past three years. I found I was a little teary eyed on Tuesday as we held our last classes in the “old school.”  However, my students were very happy to hear that the tables, the chairs, and (most importantly) the teachers, would be moving to the new school and would be greeting them when English class starts again.

Boxes and boxes all ready to go

 

Stacks of packed boxes and empty rooms greet us now, but soon we will be unpacking again and setting up new classrooms. It is time for our new journey to begin.  So this week, we are dreaming of the changes about to come…new building, new classrooms, new experiences…and it feels quite appropriate that spring is here now.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


LSS Teacher Receives National Recognition

March 28, 2017

Our own teacher, Silke Hansen, formerly recognized as teacher of the year through the South Dakota Association for Lifelong Learning (SDALL), recently received national recognition as an outstanding instructor. Please see the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) press release below for full details about this prestigious award.


Silke Hansen, LSS ESL Instructor

COABE Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award Runner-Up: Silke Hansen

Lutheran Social Services—Center for New Americans

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) is 15,000 members strong and growing, and provides a variety of services including annually providing competitive national-level awards, incentive grants, and scholarship opportunities through special funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Our mission is to inspire educators so adults succeed and communities thrive. COABE exists to provide leadership, communication, professional development, and advocacy for adult education and literacy practitioners in order to advance quality services for all adult learners. Fifteen thousand members strong, one way that we engage in these activities is by spotlighting excellence in the field. Silke Hansen was nominated for COABE’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and was selected as a runner-up.

Silke Hansen is an excellent, dedicated, and seasoned veteran teacher, having taught in adult basic education for over 11 years. Her teaching duties reach well beyond the classroom. Whenever there is a function of any kind, whether it is the annual student-teacher picnic, yearly LSS fundraiser, The Closer Connections Conference, conference presentations, or welcoming new refugees to LSS, Silke is sure to volunteer and take on considerable responsibilities. Silke’s key role among the staff might be guessed by the position of her work cubicle in the teachers’ room—it is the first cubicle seen upon entering the room, an assignment that the coordinator, Laura, admits was a conscious placement. This crucial location puts Silke where she can assist teachers and students alike who are looking for some help or advice. Silke knows where everything is stored, students’ names (past and present) and what needs to be done in almost any situation practically without fail! She has built so many strong relationships with her students, not only in their classroom endeavors, but also in the greater Sioux Falls area. She has served on the board of directors of two refugee organizations in Sioux Falls: The Khor Wakow School Project headed by South Sudan refugee and past “Lost Boy” David Jal, and the Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Association, an organization that seeks to empower refugee and immigrant women in the community and provide a networking base for its members. Together, these activities and Silke’s level of commitment reflect the kind of dedication to students that her coworkers admire and her students gratefully love. They know that Silke really cares for them as people and friends, stands with them, and will support them. During all her years at LSS, it’s clear that Silke has done whatever she could, both inside and outside the classroom to help her students find meaningful successes in their adopted country. The South Dakota state organization has seen her commitment to excellence and chose her to represent their state for the COABE Teacher of the Year Award.

 

To learn more about COABE’s prestigious award program, go to http://www.coabe.org or contact awards@coabe.org.

 

Posted by Heather Glidewell, 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

many-languages-say-hello

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


The Great Pumpkin

October 25, 2016

pumpkins_large_fb

This week I have noticed the leaves changing on the trees from lovely green to bright yellow and red. The frost covers the grass in the mornings, and the sun hides until about 7 o’clock.  It is most definitely autumn!

With autumn come Halloween and Thanksgiving, two decidedly different holidays, but which hold a common thread…PUMPKIN! Everywhere I look I see pumpkins…pumpkins on front porches, pumpkins at road side stands, pumpkins in the grocery store, pumpkins on my kitchen table…autumn is definitely the time to enjoy carving pumpkins…and cooking pumpkins! I don’t know of anything better than fresh homemade pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving…

However, pumpkin doesn’t just excite Americans; pumpkin is a staple in many, many countries. My African students eat pumpkin, my Asian students eat pumpkin, my European students eat pumpkin, my Central American students eat pumpkin…basically ALL my students eat pumpkin regardless of where they are from.  And it’s not just served in pumpkin pie!

My Nepali students in particular happily inform me that they eat pharsi with rice when we discuss pumpkins in class.   Recently my Oral 1 (beginning literacy) students from Nepal and Burma shared their favorite way to cook pumpkin, and I thought it would be nice to share a new pumpkin recipe with you.

Nepali/Burmese Pumpkin Recipe

Ingredients:

2-3 chili peppers (maybe 5!)

Small pumpkin (peel, cut, and cook)

3 potatoes

1/2 onion

1 c of water

2-3 medium tomatoes

Add garlic, ginger, cumin, and turmeric.

Instructions:

Cook all together. Put on rice.  Eat.  Enjoy!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


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