Celebrating Citizenship with the Fresno Unified School District in Fresno, CA
Fresno Unified School District began their ESL and Citizenship Program in 1989, providing a range of times and locations, as well as childcare options, to meet the needs of their students. When the district’s Adult School received a 2014 Citizenship and Assimilation Grant, they began to invite former students to return to class to not only celebrate their citizenship, but to give them the opportunity to share their success with current students. Students now look forward to these citizenship celebrations, which take place about three times a year.
Citizenship celebrations have become a Fresno Unified School District tradition, where the class gets together to enjoy snacks and cake while former students share their stories in a panel interview format. Both the coordinator and students take turns asking questions such as: “When was your interview? How long did you wait in the waiting room? What advice do you have for current students?” Current students also like to hear about the former student’s experience with the immigration officer, in what order they received their interview and tests, and what words they were tested on. This exchange between past and current citizenship students is invaluable in that it increases students’ confidence and gives them insight into a real life interview experience from one of their peers who successfully completed the naturalization process.
The celebration also allows the Fresno staff to stay connected to former students, as many of the students reconnect after passing the interview in hopes of coming to share their experience with current students at the next scheduled celebration date. “Celebrating students’ success by interviewing students about their experience, and providing food and a festive atmosphere encourages everyone to persevere in their goals,” said Citizenship Instructor and Grant Coordinator Lisa Agao.