Hoang became a U.S. citizen on November 20, 2014.

Hoang became a U.S. citizen on November 20, 2014.

Expressing his gratitude was easy for Hoang Truong when he decided to volunteer for the same organization he once came to for help.

When Hoang arrived in the United States in 2009 he dreamed of one day becoming a citizen. He knew the privileges U.S. citizenship could provide, including the right to vote and travel more freely and greater access to benefits, but he didn’t know how to go about applying.

In the intervening years, Hoang researched his options and learned that getting help from most agencies could cost his family between $50 and $70 per application, amounting to hundreds of dollars in addition to the $680 application fee per person. But then, in 2014, he heard a television announcement that would change his life forever.

The announcement came from San Jose New Americans Campaign partner Asian Law Alliance, and it alerted Hoang about a free local workshop where trained legal service providers were helping with citizenship applications. With less than two hours left in the workshop, Hoang rushed to the offices with his paperwork. When he arrived, a long line of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) already was waiting for help. Despite the crowd, Hoang was able to meet with a volunteer, who even stayed an extra hour to help him fill out his citizenship application and teach him about all of the application components.

“It was really an amazing workshop,” said Hoang. “A volunteer worked with me one-on-one, carefully helping me fill out the application question by question.”

At the end of 2014 Hoang and his family became U.S. citizens. He attributes the achievement of his dream to the help of the Asian Law Alliance. His gratitude has led him to give back to other LPRs in the same situation in which he once found himself.

Hoang now volunteers with Asian Law Alliance, making an impact in the two ways that touched his life the most: through public service announcements about workshops and citizenship application assistance. Hoang has realized that volunteering is not only an act of gratitude, but also an opportunity to show other LPRs that the citizenship process is not as scary or difficult as it may seem.

“When I help LPRs, I feel that I am doing a very meaningful job,” says Hoang. “Every time I help I know I am bringing them close to a dream — the American dream.”

Hoang hopes that more people will volunteer to help LPRs become citizens.

“I remember my aunt once told me that when someone helps you, they do not need you to say ‘thank you,’ but they hope you will help other people like they did,” says Hoang. “I think it’s very important for everyone to volunteer whenever and where they can. Volunteering helps people stay closer, understand each other better and builds a stronger community.”