Rosalba Rodriguez, who became a citizen last fall, is now a volunteer at Bonding Against Adversity in Houston, Texas, where she helps clients navigate the classes and inspires them with her enthusiasm, confidence, and first-hand experience.
I have lived in the United States for 29 years. I married a US citizen and moved from Mexico to Chicago, where my husband worked for the railroad. Mexico is a lovely country, but there is a lot of insecurity there, while there is more security and opportunity here in this nation. My husband had his family in Chicago. Chicago was beautiful, but a little stressful because of the cold weather and the snow. So eventually my family and I moved here to Houston for the climate. One of my daughters works in a hospital laboratory, the other is in school, and my son works in construction. In my family I was the only one who was not a citizen. But thank goodness, I changed that.
I visit Mexico at least two times a year, on Christmas and in the summer. When my family traveled we had to be in separate lines. I was in the line for United States residents and they were all in the line for citizens. My children would always complain, “Why do you need to be separated. You need to be here with us. You must become a citizen.” I told them I didn’t think I was able to, because I didn’t think I could pass the test. And they said, “Yes you can mommy!” And now I know that to be true. So I am helping other people see that they can become a citizen too. Yes you can!
Not only were my children very encouraging, now they have urged me to volunteer with the citizenship preparation classes at Bonding Against Adversity. There are a lot of people older than 55 who don’t know how to read, and who don’t know how to write. They need someone to give them confidence. I help them and support them so that they see how they can become citizens too. In the citizenship school we are a family. There are probably 40 students in each class. Many are students who are between 65- and 75-years-old and they must learn the answers to 20 questions. There is nothing too difficult.
But when they come to the classes they feel lost. This is how I felt when I first arrived and it is wonderful to have a person you can count on to help you. They are probably a little frightened of the interview questions. But I tell them the day that I went to the interview, I was also nervous, but all the questions that they asked me were things that we studied and I was able to answer all the interviewer’s questions in English such as, “What is your name?” and “How are you?” Just questions from daily life. So I motivate them. I tell them they can do it!
I have an 11-year-old helper. He is the grandson of a student. When we begin class we take the Pledge of Allegiance. He helps guide us with good pronunciation. With some people he helps by having people repeat the Pledge of Allegiance word for word so that they learn it. And he explains the meaning of the words and helps us to understand the significance.
There are many, many people on the waiting list for class. It is a huge help to the community because they hold classes in Spanish, in English and some are bilingual. And they have lawyers that will provide help with any type of problem that they have with their applications. We want to help more people become citizens. Bonding Against Adversity did not charge me anything for legal help. Mariana Sanchez provides us with the cards on occasion that say people can give donations to support the people in the classes. But they never ask for money. The government doesn’t charge the full application fee for people with little financial resources, so is not difficult nor does it become too expensive. So, I tell people, “Yes you can!”
When I became a US citizen in October, I felt so much emotion. My daughter was there taking lots of photos. There are so many things that, before I was a citizen, I thought I couldn’t do. I feel more confident and secure because I have my citizenship. Now I want to go to school to learn English. I am visiting Mexico this month and it is the first time I will be traveling as a US Citizen. I feel calmer traveling with citizenship. Overall, I feel more confidence. I know I am a good citizen. And now I have the chance to give a little of what I was given. The classes are such a big help for us and guide us toward our goal of citizenship. Mariana Sanchez, at Bonding Against Adversity, is a blessing.