“What is your favorite thing about living in the United States”, I asked one student, trying to get him to form his own thoughts instead of only wanting to read pre-written sentences. “Basketball” he said without pause. “And why is that?” I urged him. “No English”, he said. We both laughed.
Literacy can open doors—a larger job market, access to better education and health services—but it is also required for many permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship (some people, such as permanent residents 55 years of age or older who have been in the U.S. for 15 years or more). A basic level of reading and writing in English often stands in the way of permanent residents as they go through the Naturalization process, and the Untied African Organization provides support and resources to these members of the community.
As a part of my one month internship with the UAO, I worked one-on-one with clients to develop literacy in English. During my time here, I worked with four different students, some recently arrived high school students, some adults who had already been living in the States for more than 20 years.
The United African Organization serves a diverse community of clients, so my students’ levels varied greatly, from more advanced students who wanted to review citizenship interview questions like separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, to clients who were not even literate in their native language and had to start with learning the ABCs.
It was incredible to see the tenacity of some of these people, unfazed by the daunting task ahead, and the progress they are able to make in such short periods, especially considering the responsibilities that demand their attention outside of our short one to two hour lessons.
If you know someone in need of literacy support or who needs to review for the naturalization interview questions, please send them to our offices.
Volunteers interested in helping to develop literacy in the African immigrant community can contact the Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.