Citizenship Matters

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Sabry and wife SalmaTheir joyous and positive demeanor belies the hardships they have gone through to get to where they are now.

Sabry and wife Salma, both 65, were displaced by the civil war in Iraq, and came to the United States as refugees. After years of wanting to become citizens, they decided they would do something about it.

In their search for citizenship classes, their friend referred them to Manos de Cristo. Manos offers a year-long program for eligible Legal Permanent Residents, as opposed to the month-long preparation courses that are typically offered around the Austin area. This provides students with more time to prep for all parts of the interview process, and help establish their self-confidence along the way.

Unfortunately, the U.S. citizenship test isn’t as easy as you would imagine. There are four parts to the test: civics, reading, writing and speaking in English. Students learn about US history, government, culture and holidays, along with reading, writing, speaking and understanding English in preparation for the interview that they must pass to become US citizens. Manos also offers a hour-long English as a Second Language (ESL) class before citizenship class – a critical component to passing the test.

Kathy Schneider has been Manos’ citizenship teacher for nearly five years, and she can see the results in her students’ feedback. “They almost always say it was very easy, but of course that was because they went to school and they knew exactly what to expect, and they were well prepared.” Schneider says that the biggest stumbling block for her students is speaking and understanding English, since most students are quick to grasp the concepts.

Manos has helped both Sabry and Salma fill out their application; they both completed their fingerprints, and received a written notice for their interview. At the end of June, both Sabry and Salma passed their citizenship test! After taking the naturalization oath and becoming U.S. citizens, they can now call themselves “Americans.”

“The goal is to help humans without regard to race, without color, without anything,” said Sabry. “The Manos administration helps everybody.”

They are so grateful, and have sought out Manos’ other services like ESL and Computer Literacy so Sabry can find a new job.

Thanks to the help of Manos and its supporters, this couple now calls the U.S.A. their country, their home.

Click here for more information about Citizenship classes at Manos de Cristo.

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