Hard Work and Long Hours Pay Off: Working Mother Completes Library’s English for Citizenship Program, Passes Naturalization Interview

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Every Wednesday night for three months, through bad weather, illness, and life’s other hurdles, Maria Hodge followed the same exhausting routine. After working an eight-hour day in the kitchen of the Marriott Hotel, she would pick up her 6-year-old daughter and head to the Kansas City Public Library to study.

Why? She hoped to ensure a better life for her child by attaining U.S. citizenship.

Hodge was part of the Library’s pilot program, English for Citizenship. For a couple of hours each week, she and her classmates studied grammar and vocabulary and practiced speaking, reading and writing. They quizzed one another on the 100 civics questions needed to pass the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ naturalization test. For 12 weeks, they learned from their mistakes, encouraged everyone’s progress, and shared their dreams.

Hodge was born in Mexico City, and grew up speaking Spanish. She moved to the United States in 1989.

Her months of hard work paid off when, early in January 2018, the 20-year permanent green card holder passed her naturalization interview. She was among those honored in a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in February.

She confessed that the hardest part of the process was preparing for the civics questions. But “of course it helped,” Hodge says. “Especially in the beginning, when we are not very good at reading and writing English. We get a lot of practice so, when we go to take the test, we are ready.”

Maria Hodge during a February naturalization ceremony at the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Maria Hodge poses with the judge after her naturalization ceremony in February.

English for Citizenship is a 12-week course that meets every Wednesday night from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Central Library (14 W. 10th St). It is designed to help develop the language skills necessary to pass the USCIS naturalization test. Students will be taught the vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation found on the N-400 form and the 100 civics questions. Contact Jane Lee at janelee@kclibrary.org to register for the class.

It is one of the many programs created by the Library’s Refugee & Immigrant Services & Empowerment (RISE) team. Their mission is to connect immigrant populations with the quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities of the Library through outreach, education, and advocacy. They also offer English language learning and citizenship interview practice sessions.