Welcome to Our Newest Citizen

US flagNancy, a Craven Literacy tutor, just witnessed her student Te (not her real name) take her Oath of Citizenship in Durham.  Kudos to them both for all their hard work! Below is  Nancy’s moving account of the citizenship process with her student.

On Friday, October 28, I had the pleasure of witnessing Te take her Oath of Citizenship at the US Citizenship and Immigration Service in Durham. For refugees, Burmese in this case, this in an awesome step in their lives. Te has been studying to be a citizen for about 2 ½ years. She attends a weekly citizenship class offered through the Craven Literacy Council . She also takes a second class each week to study the English language. In all that time, she has missed maybe one or two classes, always arriving early with her beautiful smile and eagerness to learn.

Through Interfaith Refugee Ministry, Te arrived in the U.S. in July  2010, with her husband and three children. A fourth child was born here. She works in a part-time job as an office cleaner. Her husband works full-time. In addition to this, she has shown her dedication and desire to attend classes twice a week. The application process for citizenship is multi-fold. There is an 18-page ‘Application for Citizenship’ form to be completed, a challenge in itself. This is sent for review and if accepted, a notice is sent for the applicant to go to Durham for fingerprinting. After a waiting period, the applicant is given a date to go back to Durham. They then take the ‘Interview Test’ on reading, writing, history, government, and understanding verbal questioning. When that is passed, the third and final step is to go back to Durham to take the Oath of Citizenship, as happened on October 28.

There were 57 applicants representing about 40 countries, who had completed all the requirements. The Oath Ceremony consisted of short speeches, the Pledge of Allegiance, a video of American places and faces. There was also a video of the President welcoming and encouraging new citizens to observe their rights and responsibilities as naturalized citizens. The new citizens were asked to stand and be recognized as they received their ‘Certificate of Naturalization’. Following that, there were many pictures, hugs, and yes, some happy tears.

What a privilege it was to be a witness to that solemn and happy occasion. Many thanks are due the Craven Literacy Council and all its supporters. They have the will, the desire, and the excitement to enable the process.

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Celebrating 30 Years!

Many friends and supporters of Craven Literacy Council gathered at the home of tutor and Board member Karen and Jon Segal on September 15th, 2016. It was a fabulous setting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Craven Literacy Council! photo collage from 30th Anniversary

Guests enjoyed light refreshments on a late summer night as they met new Executive Director Sandra McKinney and learned about programs to build adult literacy in our community. The highlight of the evening was a first-hand account from Karen and her Craven Literacy student, a Burmese refugee who in five years has gone from knowing little English to studying to take the US citizenship test.

From Illiterate to Poet

We just can’t stop bragging about Earl Mills. He came to Craven Literacy Council at age 48 and through diligent work with our tutors learned to read. He’s been on stage with former first lady Barbara Bush. He’s been a speaker at ProLiteracy events. He’s had several books  published.

Read here about Earl’s most recently published work.

From a Student and a Tutor

Why Have a Tutor?
I have an English tutor because it has a lot of benefits. The program is free. Other English programs are very expensive but this program is very good and free. My tutor helps me to read, write, talk and understand the English language. I love having a tutor because it is private instruction or small group. For this reason I feel free to express my thoughts.

One of the benefits I like is the flexibility. It is hard to study when you have kids. For this reason our meetings are when my children are at school.

In conclusion a tutor is a new friend who helps you when you need it. Thank you to my tutor for your patience. Without you everything I achieved would not be possible.

And a note from our tutor:
She was my English student for approximately 1 1/2 years. She is married to a U.S. Marine stationed at Cherry Point. They have two young children. This was her first time living in the United States. Her native country is Puerto Rico. She made great progress learning English.

It is very rewarding to develop a tutor/student relationship and I highly encourage others to reach out and teach!

We are beginning out next new tutor training workshop in April. Click here to register or for more information.

Learning to Read at 48

Earl Mills is one of CLC’s biggest literacy success stories and now one of our biggest boosters. Earl raised a family and enjoyed 30 years of successful employment in New Bern, NC – all while hiding a secret from his children and his employer: he could barely read.  In his 40’s Earl finally turned to Craven Literacy Council for help.

open bookNow a published author and frequent inspirational speaker, Earl tells his story to others, vividly conveying the fear that came with hiding this secret throughout his adult life.  He also shares the sheer determination it took for him to become a reader.

Read more of Earl’s story here in the New Bern SunJournal.

Immigrant Runs Own Business and Earns Citizenship

tutor and Gloria
Tutor and her student, a proud new US citizen

When Gloria Aranda came to Craven Literacy Council in 2007 with a high school certificate from her native Colombia, her oral English abilities were sufficient only to satisfy basic survival needs and very routine social demands. She appealed to CLC for help communicating effectively so that she could be involved at her daughter’s school, participate in her church, find employment, and ultimately become a US citizen. Three years later Gloria’s oral skills had increased so much that she could function independently and competently in social and work situations. She is now actively involved with her daughter’s schooling and is comfortable interacting with her daughter’s counselor. Gloria understands the English sermons at her church and sings the hymns in English.

Not only did Gloria get a job – she started her own small business. Her enhanced English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills permit her to communicate with her customers by telephone and face-to-face. Gloria also worked with her tutor to learn computer and technology skills that many take for granted. She now communicates with her customers via e-mail and creates professional invoices using her new skills. Gloria celebrates other achievements such as knowing how to write checks and deposit slips as well as using the internet to check her bank account online.

Gloria continues to work with a literacy tutor at Craven Literacy Council. In 2015 she met a long-held goal of passing the naturalization test and becoming a United States citizen. She and her tutor worked diligently with the civics material provided to her free of charge. She completed her application and went through the multi-step process to becoming a US citizen. In a recent communication with CLC Gloria wrote, “My experience has been wonderful because now I can communicate better in whatever place I go. ” Craven Literacy Council celebrates Gloria’s hard work. We are thankful to be part of her success story.

Single Mom Improves Literacy for Better Job

picture of student and tutor
Tutor Mary Helen Boone (right) celebrates with her student

When a young single mother reached out to Craven Literacy Council to help improve her reading and writing skills as a way to get a good paying job, she had no idea how far she would go. Adult learner Denise Ellis and her tutor, Mary Helen Boone, have accomplished so much together since December 2008.

Denise faced many challenges during those years. Family issues, unemployment, an auto accident that left her with recurring bouts of pain, and finally, loss of her home to Hurricane Irene. She had to move her children from one temporary location to another over the past few years. (Fortunately, with the help of Mary Helen and her husband, Denise was finally able to find a permanent home for her family this year.)

With all these challenges, it would have been so easy to stop studying, but not Denise. Discovering through her daughters that she had a passion for working with young children, she enrolled at Pamlico Community College to work toward a certificate in Early Childhood Education. As a work-study student at PCC, she is able to work with the Smart Start Program, a pre-school educational program, which made her even more certain that she wants to help educate children. Denise has already completed two years of study at PCC and earned all B’s last semester! Now she and Mary Helen are working on the financial aid package to enable her to continue her studies.

We’ve all heard the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That certainly describes the Denise/Mary Helen team, and we couldn’t be prouder to share their story.

US Citizenship for CLC Student

photo of tutor and student
Tutor with new US citizen Gloria Aranda

Gloria Aranda was all smiles after becoming a naturalized citizen during a ceremony in Durham this month. Since arriving from Colombia in 2004, she has worked hard to master the English language to be able to help her daughter do well in school.

Gloria came to Craven Literacy Council two years ago, and we paired her with a volunteer tutor. The duo has been studying together ever since. In that time Gloria has steadily improved her English proficiency. When she decided to work toward achieving citizenship status both she and her tutor studied U.S. history and civics together. This summer the hard work paid off with Gloria’s earning of US citizenship.

Read more of Gloria’s story here in the New Bern SunJournal.