My desire to be a Citizenship Tutor starts with my parents. They came to America in the 1920s to seek opportunity – there was very little opportunity in their small towns in Ireland. My parents laid down their lives in their beloved Ireland so their children could walk across to a better life.
My parents embraced the education and opportunities for their children in America – just like immigrants that visit PRC today. I’m one of 7 kids, and each sibling has an advanced degree – not because we were wealthy and could afford it, but because we took advantage of each opportunity available. My father was a laborer and my mother was a servant. With advanced degrees, my siblings and I ended up in a different class than our parents – and we never forgot where we came from…and they didn’t let us forget it.
When I first came to PRC , we were a Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. We had hope for a dental clinic too. My first day, I decided to stand in the line for Food Pantry with our clients to experience that with them. As I tried to speak to others in line, I was struck by the ‘united nations’ of people there! I heard languages from all around the world! I was bursting with a desire for us to have a Literacy program. I felt we need to give people the first rung of the ladder to success.
Making friends with immigrants, I’ve learned humility through the arduous journey they’re on. The oath to become a US citizen is full of renouncing. It’s very intense, to renounce allegiance to other countries – to renounce part of their identity – to become a citizen. They have a willingness to do what it takes, and my students are so committed and grateful.
Part of preparing for the Citizenship Test is getting comfortable having conversations in English. We take English for granted. We’ve spoken it since Mama and Dada. I’ve learned tutoring is not a ‘quick fix’ for my student. It happens when they’re ready. We take things one step at a time, respecting the journey they’re on.
Tutoring has taught me respect, humility, patience, and awe. Also, I’ve grown a deep respect for the world of cultures, languages, and customs of others.
I wish our country would return to being open and welcoming– that my students would be respected and loved for what they bring. There’s a Jane Addams quote about how she once looked into the eye of a man in need and knew he had read poetry, he was knowledgeable, he was cultured….he was an intelligent person and should not be reduced because of his needs. Just because communication is difficult does not mean the other person is not as cultured, intelligent, or qualified as you.
I can’t think of anything that is more important in my life than helping to grow citizens and voters who will help us choose good leaders.
I hope when people walk in our doors they feel how they do when they come into their library. It’s a gift of the community- there free for you – free for the taking.