Born in the Yucatan, Balam moved to Kansas City in 1994. He came to the Midwest in search of better job opportunities and financial security, and now calls Independence, Missouri, home.
The 43-year-old wanted to become a citizen of the United States so he could vote. He heard about the Kansas City Public Library’s free English for Citizenship classes - offered by the Library's Refugee & Immigrant Services & Empowerment (RISE) team - through a promotion at our North-East Branch.
Balam said he benefited in many ways with each English for Citizenship session. The dedicated tutors and instructor helped a lot, especially with practice on the 100 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) civics questions and with reading.
Number of hours spent studying: 48
Becoming a citizen: Priceless
Balam admitted that the hardest part was making himself go to class every week. After a long day at his manufacturing job, the last thing he wanted to do was drive to downtown Kansas City for a two-hour class. He’d rather have gone home and watch television, he said.
But showing up week after week paid off. Library volunteers patiently guided Balam step by step through the materials. That’s his advice to others seeking naturalization: Make the effort. Take the English for Citizenship course. Otherwise, you may struggle.
Balam is now a proud American citizen. He passed his naturalization interview in mid-May, and was naturalized June 20, 2018 at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. He took the oath of allegiance with more than 50 others from 26 different homelands.