Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR) Incorporates Mock Interviews to Prepare Students for Citizenship
NMCIR was founded in 1982 with a mission to expand access to legal immigration services and engage in community organizing. As a part of the organization’s legal, educational, and advocacy services, civics and ESOL classes are held to assist community members in preparing for naturalization. NMCIR is proud to provide services to support the entire process of naturalization and has an online waiting list for student enrollment. Students can elect to participate in either the ESL and citizenship classes or just the ESL class if they hope to improve their level of English fluency.
Beginning in summer 2017, the education team established a mock interview program to supplement regular class programming. Two new staff members and four volunteers were trained on the USCIS interview process prior to holding mock interview nights for civics students. The team also planned to hold at least three mock interview evenings per class term, which are also open to both enrolled and drop-in students.
When students arrive for their mock interview, they are seated in the “waiting room” until the volunteer calls their name and leads them to the interview. The volunteer takes the role of immigration officer and tries to replicate the environment of a real naturalization interview, posing questions to the student for about 20 minutes. After the interview, the volunteer uses a mock interview form to provide feedback to the student, including whether they would have passed or failed. The volunteer is also encouraged to discuss areas where the student was successful and where they need improvement. Students are also given the opportunity to discuss the experience with their teacher so that their feedback can be incorporated into future instruction.
The mock interview program helps students to gain an in-depth understanding of the process and receive individualized feedback that can guide their preparation for the interview. NMCIR recognizes that ESOL students can be nervous about being interviewed in their non-native language. The mock interview experience is designed to build student confidence as they prepare for their naturalization test and interview. An NMCIR student named Dalia** recently participated in a mock interview session. After the session she contacted NMCIR staff to request a second mock interview prior to her naturalization test and interview. The staff member helped Dalia translate key terms, correct pronunciation errors, and review responses to potential questions. This program played an important part in helping Dalia pass her interview a week later.
All NMCIR students are encouraged to contact staff if they are in need of extra mock interview practice outside of class time or as their naturalization interview approaches. “Whenever I had problems, my teachers helped me,” said participating student Santa Taveras. NMCIR’s mock interview program is minimizing student anxiety about the general expectation of the interview process. The practical experience of the mock interview helps prepare students and also gives instructors a better understanding of the students’ learning needs.
**Name has been changed.