Citizenship class at BPL

The United States citizenship class has been held at Boulder Public Library since 1996. Ghana Elturk, the former Outreach Librarian, was looking for help when she was becoming a citizen. She could not find any, so realized this was a need in our community. She started the class at this time. I started teaching the class when I retired from the library in 2005. I have done informational sessions periodically with BoulderReads tutors since some people in the adult literacy program are interested in becoming citizens, as well as other groups.

It has been an incredible experience for me. There have been people originally from almost 80 different countries who have attended the class. Some have become close friends. 

The citizenship class is held every Monday from 6-7:30 in the Arapahoe Room. Since the library sponsors the class in this way I do not have to rent a room and can offer it with no charge. The library also allows me to make copies I need for the class. Some people attend class every week for a year or so, and others cannot attend every week for various reasons. Some people are not eligible to apply for citizenship and just come for some information.  More than 500 people have taken the class since I started teaching it, and all but a handful have become citizens.  

There is no registration for the class. I teach the class in a cycle, starting with Native Americans to the early explorers and settlers, up to the present history, and then start over again. I do not allow any politics in the class, but if students ask questions, I answer them as factually as I understand them. There are some very hard and sensitive subjects I have to cover in our history, and having people from all over the globe, I sometimes open it to how their countries may tell the same story.

I spend a lot of time in class going over the process and what to expect during their interview. My ultimate goal in teaching the class is to help each person feel confident as they go to the interview because of what we have gone over in class - and just maybe - not be too nervous.

One of the things I see in class is how some of the people attending become friends and can even overcome historical events when their two countries have been enemies in the past. 

There is an immigration lawyer in town who volunteers her time to speak with any student who has a question about the process. This is a huge help to me because there are so many legal questions I am not qualified to answer.

I take a training from USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Service) in Denver about every two years. I have gotten to know some of the people in the Denver office which has been helpful when I have questions about the process or a problem a student might have. There are many details to the process of becoming a citizen and each person has their own unique story. 

People from the USCIS office in Denver come to BPL for a swearing-in ceremony each year. This year we have two dates set for this ceremony to take place. About 35-45 people will become citizens at these ceremonies. These are very emotional times and it means so much to those who are sworn-in as citizens and the family members who are able to attend to have it in Boulder. Two swearing-in ceremonies will take place at the library this year, on May 27 and August 26 at 1pm in the Canyon Theater.

For more information about the citizenship class, email me at booksforhumanity@yahoo.com.

Anita Stuehler