News & Blog: Learner Stories

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Written by Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

Uwamahoro, a Congolese refugee who came to the United States by way of Uganda, had two goals when she started at the Literacy Center: learn English and become a citizen. In fact, it wasn’t very long after Uwamahoro and her family—including her mother, brother, niece, and nephew—arrived in Grand Rapids that Uwamahoro knew she wanted to be a citizen.

“I heard about [the Literacy Center’s citizenship class] from my brother who was doing interpretation. It was him who told me that there was a class. I said ‘oh, I have to go there.’”

Her teachers, Theresa and Ram, worked with Uwamahoro to help her fill out the N400. The N400 is a 20-page form that all permanent residents must fill out in order to apply for citizenship.

“Before I have no idea about the N400, but because of the class, now I understand more about filling out the application.”

Despite the lengthy paperwork, Uwamahoro knew that there was still one more challenge awaiting her: she would have to giveUwamahoro 2 the correct verbal answer to 6 questions about the United States out of a possible 100 questions. These questions range from the importance of The Federalist Papers to the name of the United States’ longest river. While the Trump administration increased the number and scope of the citizenship test questions in late 2020, the Biden administration has reversed that change.

Uwamahoro, who had applied for citizenship before the Trump administration changed the number of test questions, was afraid of the 100 questions. However, after much practice in class and after watching YouTube videos, she felt prepared for her citizenship interview.

On the day of her citizenship interview, Uwamahoro’s brother drove her to Detroit.

“I was [worried]…” Uwamahoro said, “but how [the officer] was asking the questions, she made me feel comfortable.” As for how she did on the citizenship test? “I did the first 6,” she said, “and on question 7 they said I did a good job.”

“I was very, very happy,” Uwamahoro said, “I was waiting [to get my citizenship] for a very long time.”

Uwamahoro will become an American Citizen in the Spring of 2021. Due to COVID, new citizens must attend a personal celebration to receive their citizenship paperwork. She is excited to be able to vote in the next presidential election.

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