Making the Dream of Citizenship a Reality



Over the last two years, the Consortium for Worker Education has dedicated resources to supporting New York’s immigrants. Because each community has unique needs, CWE works with established community organizations to develop programs that are tailored to meet those needs and have the greatest impact.
In New York’s Ecuadorian community, many Green Card holders need support learning the particular English grammar and vocabulary necessary to traverse the citizenship process. The Ecuadorian Consulate reached out to Catholic Charities Community Services for help providing an ESL and Citizenship class in Queens, and Catholic Charities turned to CWE for funding to support the program.  
“It is often difficult to get new programs off the ground, but CWE made it a very smooth process,” says Elaine Roberts, Director of Programs for Catholic Charities International Center. “We met with CWE and explained the community need and the program that we wanted to provide. CWE moved quickly and we were able to be really responsive to the community.”


Students Cornelio Hidalgo & Mirian Vasquez interview each other in preparation for the citizenship interview.


Many participants are high-beginner or low-intermediate English speakers, says Roberts. The class covers both the civics knowledge needed to answer the “100 questions” of the citizenship test and preparation for the citizenship interview.
The interview, with its advanced grammar, is a particular challenge for many immigrants. Through mock interviews, applicants prepare to answer questions that rarely come up in everyday conversation – like “Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” – while also learning the technical vocabulary of government applications.
Catholic Charities also takes full advantage of the class’ location in the city of New York, with field trips to prominent locations in U.S. history, like Federal Hall.
“Why do I love this class? It’s helping me with everything – English, history, pronunciation – all at one time,” says Cornelio Hidalgo, one of the current students.


Volunteers lead the class in a citizenship board game.


“The students in the Citizenship class are such lovely people, and it’s very rewarding to be able to help them improve their lives,” says Ginny Donnelly, a volunteer helping with the class.
The program is now in its fourth session.
Citizenship and ESL are just part of the services that Catholic Charities provides for immigrant communities. As part of the ESL and citizenship class, a staff member from the Catholic Charities Department of Immigration Services answers basic questions and connects participants to legal services.
With immigrant communities increasingly vulnerable, Catholic Charities and CWE are making the protection of citizenship possible for more New York residents.