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 Summer of New Experiences

August 1, 2017

Imagine for a moment some of the tasks on your to-do list this week. Chances are a lot of things on the list are “just get it done” tasks, the kind of thing you have to remember to do, but you don’t think about very much –picking up prescriptions, grabbing groceries for the week, scheduling a dental appointment for your child.

Now imagine you’ve been dropped off in a totally new country – a place where people don’t speak your language, you don’t get food at the same kind of store, and you have no idea who to call or even if you can call to make that dentist appointment. Suddenly, that “just get it done” to-do list has become full of looming, seemingly impossible tasks. Common activities are suddenly hopelessly confusing. This is the reality for many refugee families when they first arrive in the United States.

This summer I’ve had the pleasure to work with many of Sioux Falls’ refugee families through an internship at the LSS Center for New Americans. When refugees arrive in Sioux Falls, they are assigned a set of LSS case managers. These case managers have varying specialties, such as locating housing, navigating the medical system, finding employment, and enrolling children in public school.   However, I think of myself as the luckiest person working here, because, as the intern, I get to help out in all of these specialties.

Leigha Vilen

CNA Intern Leigha Vilen

As someone who has never spent much time outside the United States (I thought the move to college was a big transition!), I have been awed and inspired by the resilience of the refugee families we work with as they negotiate living within an unfamiliar culture. The role of the caseworker is primarily as a facilitator, helping to navigate the challenges created by this unfamiliarity. Our clients take this little bit of help and use it to build amazing futures: achieving new educational goals, advancing in their careers, and creating the best possible futures for their children and grandchildren.

Leigha working at her desk

Leigha working at her desk.

I owe LSS and the families I was lucky enough to work with a huge thank you for an amazing summer. I came in hoping to learn a little bit about social work and refugee resettlement, but I’m walking away with a vision of what the American Dream can look like at its best.

 

Leigha Vilen

Summer 2017 Intern, LSS Center for New Americans


A Refugee Camp in Sioux Falls?

July 18, 2017

Yes!  On June 20th, visitors to the Center for New Americans got to experience an interactive refugee camp and learn more about the journey of a refugee around the world.  The event was organized to celebrate World Refugee Day; the international observance dedicated raising awareness of the refugee situation around the world.

On this warm Tuesday lunch hour, 250 people from the Sioux Falls community walked in the footsteps of refugees – from fleeing their home country to being resettled in America.  Interactive stations were available along the way to show the realities of the refugee resettlement process.  Visitors began at the border crossing, where they were questioned as to why they fled their home country. As they gained their refugee stamp book, they learned that by the end of 2016, there were 22.5 million refugees in the world and yet less than 1% of them ever find a permanent home.

From there, the new “refugees” then made their way to a Distribution Center to get supplies for their time in a refugee camp.  Real-life former refugees told stories of their time in the camps and what conditions were truly like before the “refugees” learned about the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.  An Immigration attorney was available to answer questions as to how the immigration process happens, what kind of security clearances are required and who is approved to come to the United States.

Finally, the “refugees” had to learn about the culture of America, before they could be approved to fly overseas.  When they arrived to America, they were welcomed into LSS to see how refugees are integrated into the community and become self-sufficient.  Tours of the new LSS Campus on Eastbank, which houses the Center for New Americans, were available along with refreshments for the weary travelers.

This interactive event was co hosted by:  LSSSD, Refugee Congress, Caminando Juntos, the Multi Cultural Center, and Pax Christi.  Organizers of the event would like to extend their thanks to Mogadishu Grocery store for providing the supplies for the Distribution Center and Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen for being on site to offer food to visitors.  We would also like to say thank you to the volunteers who helped set up and participate in the event.  Finally, we would also like to say a big thank you to everyone came to the event!

Check out Keloland and KSFY for videos of the event.

 

written by Kristyne Duffy, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans


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


Please Join Us for the 22nd Annual Taste of Cultures Dinner and Silent Auction Event!

January 17, 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017  6:30 pm

The District, Sioux Falls

toc-square

Celebrate the diversity of our community with your support of LSS in raising funds to assist newcomers to resettle. Proceeds help to purchase groceries, assist with rent, purchase furniture, buy bus passes and purchase winter clothing for refugee families new to the country.

6:30 pm Dinner
– Enjoy Food from Around the World
– Wine, Bourbon & Whiskey Tasting
– Silent Auction

7:30 pm > Entertainment
– Live Music
– Cultural Dancing

Stay and enjoy the evening with music, friends and family

Ticket Options
General Admission Tickets > $40
General Admission Table of Eight > $300
VIP Tickets > $80 **Limited Quantity Available**
VIP Table of Eight > $640 **Limited Quantity Available**
– VIP tickets include premium seating, wine, bourbon & whiskey tasting

Limited seating, reserve seats early.

Tickets are available online. For ticket information call Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans at 605-731-2009.

A pledge or contribution to support LSS services in the area will be requested.

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation; text TOC17 to 41444.  Your gift is greatly appreciated.

 

 

 


Students from Around the World Celebrate Culture at the Annual “World Festival”

January 3, 2017
we-wish-you-a-merry-christmas

LSS Center for New Americans English Class students selected a traditional American holiday song to learn and perform at the festival.  They chose to learn, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

On December 15, 2016 the LSS Center for New Americans hosted the 5th annual “World Festival.”

During the “World Festival,” adult English learners from around the globe share cultural music, dances and foods with each other, their English teachers and other LSS staff.

nepali-dance

LSS CNA teaching staff join in dancing with students from Bhutan.

carols-sweater

Teacher Carol Hudson dons her homemade “Ugly Sweater” for this special event

Carol shared that this event is valuable because the students say it’s so fun. You see the students laughing and having a good time and getting to be with their teachers as equals, sitting together, eating together and dancing together.  During the World Festival, “By being on their level, we are all the same.”

Food.JPG

The “finger food” potluck – plenty of food for everyone!

caado-dancing

Caado performs a dance routine to Congolese hip-hop

afghani-dance

A teacher and student entertain the crowd with a dance to Afghani music

 

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


%d bloggers like this: