What a wonderful way to end my internship this summer at Taller De Jose; I accompanied Norma to her citizenship exam today. During the interview I could tell Norma* was nervous. She was holding her purse tightly to her chest, so I gently touched her shoulder, smiled warmly and told her to relax. She nervously laughed, took a deep breath, and I began translating the questions asked by the officer: What is an amendment? What countries were involved in World War II? What is the capital of Illinois? To what do we pledge allegiance to in the Pledge of Allegiance? Each time Norma answered she brightly smiled, showing all her teeth and answered loudly and confidently: a change to the constitution, Germany, Italy and France, Springfield, the flag. I could feel myself become as excited as Norma each time she answered a question correctly, answers to questions that I do not think I even remembered or knew the answers to.
Soon after she answered all the questions and signed all the official papers, the officer nonchalantly told her she would receive a notification in the mail to come for her ceremony, where she would officially become a United States citizen. With a huge smile on her face, she withheld her emotions and waited until we got outside to express herself. She thanked me and all the compañeritas who helped her and others who have helped people like her.
I also thanked her; I saw in her the experiences my parents had coming to this country and completing their citizenship exams, alone and probably as nervous as she was. I may not have walked with my parents, but I was able to walk with Norma through her journey and experience how a unique service to the community can mean so much to clients but also to us, the compañeros. My internship may be over but I do not think my days of accompaniment are, I will take this experience and practice everywhere I go. Thank You Taller De Jose!
*All stories are based on real client stories, but names and details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.