By Laurie Tignan
The Worcester Public Library (WPL) in conjunction with the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester (LVGW) will be hosting a special series of events on Tuesday September 17, 2013. The day is one that all citizens of the United States should share with pride, yet few seem to know about it and even fewer celebrate it. It most places the day goes by with little recognition, except for foreign born members of the Worcester community who have spent many months and long hours preparing for the citizenship test.
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is observed each year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”
In 1940 Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing and requesting the President to issue annually a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in May for the public recognition of all who had attained the status of American citizenship. The designation for this day was “I Am An American Day.”
In 1952 Congress repealed this joint resolution and passed a new law moving the date to September 17, to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution of the United States.” The day was still designated as “Citizenship Day” and retained its original purpose of recognizing all those who had attained American citizenship.
The law hoped to encourage civil and educational authorities of states, counties, cities and towns to make plans for the proper observance of the day and for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside. This year through a new initiative sponsored by the Library Science and Technology (LSTA) branch of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners the Worcester Public Library has taken that calling to heart. Librarian Mora McAvey has been the library coordinator of the grant. She has been responsible for pulling all aspects of the project together. With her leadership, the September 17, 2013 celebration has become a reality.
On September 17, in the Saxe room of the WPL from noon to five officials from the USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration services will be here to answer all questions regarding the responsibilities of citizenship and equally important what to be aware of when searching for legal help. Cricket Paulsen, the Citizenship teacher, will be on hand to greet any prospective students. She will also provide a schedule of upcoming classes. All sessions are free and open to the public. For more information visit the library website www.Worcpublib.org .
The “I Am An American Day” holds a very special meaning for the foreign born patrons of the Worcester Public Library who have taken months to study the new materials for citizenship provided by
the LSTA grant as a permanent part of the WPL collection. The grant paid for the countless videos, CD’s, flash cards, history books and test preparation kits that are always available on loan for free to anyone with a library card. To further enhance the study of citizenship LVGW provides over thirty ESL and Basic Reading classes so that citizenship seekers have an opportunity to improve their English first before beginning the process of citizenship. These classes are offered several days a week and on Saturdays at convenient times at the WPL for parents with school age children and those working evening shift.
Literacy Volunteers Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester (LVGW) was founded in 1973 as an affiliate of the Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. Today we are one of 13 affiliates of Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts. LVGW serves adults who need literacy instruction in Greater Worcester Area. Since its foundation, LVGW has been consistently successful in attracting hundreds of volunteer tutors to work with adult students in need of English as a second language including basic reading, writing, comprehension and other communication skills. Today, LVGW offers a variety of ESOL and Reading classes to more than 300 students. Classes are generally small, serving 10-14 students. Each class is taught by professional ESL instructors. Classes range from survival English to Citizenship readiness and a new course sponsored by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation to help parents of school age children become advocates for their children’s education. With 170 volunteer tutors who provide confidential, free, individualized and year-round tutoring we are able to provide student oriented lessons. All LVGW services are free to the public.
After ESOL patrons attain a proficiency level adequate for studying the mandated materials they are ready for the next step. LVGW offers one on one tutoring or small class instruction to provide educational support to prepare for the test. For many folks this is the most important test they have ever taken and given its status can bring with it anxiety and test phobia. Literacy Volunteers instructor Cricket Paulsen helps her students learn the material in a comforting environment where no question is too minor to explore. She creates a community of learners who find studying as a group much more helpful than working alone at home on unfamiliar material. Cricket brings American history to life, she creates lively discussions and interesting ways for folks to remember countless details about our government that most of us have forgotten after 9th grade civics class. But learning and understanding the material is essential to becoming a full fledged American. To be a citizen you must pass the test.
Cricket has spent the last two years becoming a trusted teacher and friend to citizenship seekers. She has watched folks begin the learning process with major trepidation after seeing the tremendous amount of information to be memorized. Yet with her easy delivery of instruction students start to become confident and to her credit students actually become excited by being tested to see how much they know. Without fail, every student who has passed the test experiences the excitement of a major accomplishment well earned.
Students tell us that it is all worth the sacrificed time and energy it takes to make the leap from immigrant or refugee status to American citizen. It is extremely empowering to be able to say “I am an American” and I will always be an American! A recent new citizen stopped by the LVGW office to tell us that her next stop after Mechanics Hall was City Hall to find out about registering to vote. For many new voters the opportunity to select a senator, congressman or President was something not readily possible. For others being able to leave the US and not worrying if they can return to family and friends is a huge relief. And for everyone who becomes a citizen the Right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not just words.
Throughout our nation’s history, foreign-born men and women have come to the United States, taken the Oath of Allegiance to become naturalized citizens, and contributed greatly to their new communities and country. Worcester is continuously enriched by the intrepid immigrants and refugees who come here to work, buy houses, start businesses, pay taxes and vote. The tradition in Greater Worcester for Citizenship is to gather at the historic Mechanics Hall. Family, friends, teachers and supporters can witness the swearing in of new citizens from as many countries as those who participate in the United Nations. There are always tears of joy and grins from ear to ear as the new citizens are welcomed as Americans.
Our next Citizenship class will be held Tuesday August 20 and Wednesday August 21 from 6-9pm, in the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester office, room 332. Classes will be held monthly so please see us on facebook or www.lvgw.org to find out when the classes for September will begin. You may also contact us at 508-754-8056. Our regular ESL/Literacy classes begin on September 23, 2013. Registration will be open until September 192013.
The mission of the Worcester Public Library is to be a gathering place for all members of our community. The citizenship program supported by Wei Jung Chen, the head librarian and the Worcester Public Library Foundation is only one piece of new programming that is being offered. Patrons interested in finding out more about computer classes, grant and resume writing should visit the website www.worcpublib.org. There is always something new happening at 3 Salem Square.You might also be interested in visiting the new Food for Thought Café and Bookstore right on the first floor.
SIDE BOX ONE
Who Can Become A Citizen?
If you were not born in the United States, the process of becoming a U.S. Citizen is called naturalization. U.S. immigration law has certain requirements for becoming a citizenship, including: you must be at least 18 years old; you must be a permanent resident for at least 3 years; you need to be able to read, write and speak basic English; and you must have a basic knowledge of how the U.S. government works. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers a Citizenship Civics test to determine whether you have a sufficient knowledge of the United States government.
SIDE BOX TWO
It’s Not As Easy As You Might Think!
1. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
2. What is the economic system in the United States?
3. Name your U.S. Representative.
4. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
5. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
6. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
7. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name ONE of the writers.
8. What is ONE thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
9. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
10. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
1. 27; 2. capitalist economy/market economy; 3. answers will vary; 4. Any two: Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Attorney General, Vice President; 5. John Roberts; 6. Native Americans/American Indians; 7. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Publius; 8. U.S. diplomat, oldest member of the Constitutional Convention, first Postmaster General of the United States, writer of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” started the first free libraries. 9. World War II; 10. fought for women’s rights/fought for civil rights.
SIDE BOX THREE
Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”