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My Journey to Becoming a United States Citizen

by Lizeth Mendoza

Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience becoming a United States citizen. It is my hope that I will encourage someone else who is thinking about becoming a citizen to never give up, finish the process, and become a success story.

My name is Claudia Lizeth Romero Mendoza. My native homeland is Mexico, and my primary language is Spanish. I have been in the United States approximately seven years. In Mexico, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and was a manager with a small crew for The Environmental Health and Safety Department of Mining Areas.

When I first arrived in the states, I traveled from Maryland to the New Jersey area with my husband for his job. During the fall of 2016, my husband and I settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is a beautiful university town. During that time, I received my conditional permanent residency and work permit. I started working with a contractor at The University of Michigan in one of their dining rooms. I prepared, cooked, and served food. I was so happy to have a job, but very tired after long hours, and wanted to find something in my field.

I applied to work directly for the university. After months of taking tests, I was approved for a new university position. Unfortunately, my husband said it was time to move again with his job. I was disappointed because I wanted to stay employed in my new position. We went to Richmond, Virginia. For about a month we stayed in a hotel before we found a place to live. Knowing my English language skills were not strong, it was very difficult to find a job, but I never stopped looking. I took additional classes at John Tyler Community College and received certifications with OSHA as a manufacturing technician. At the end of the day, I believed nobody wanted to hire a foreigner with English language barriers.

In October of 2020, I went to the library and decided to attend an ESL class at RPS Adult Education, where I met my Instructor, Ms. Janice Riley. She helped me to increase my confidence and improve my second language English skills with speaking, reading, writing, and listening in her class.

I remained in the ESL program for over one year and took several classes with Ms. Riley to develop more English skills. A new Customer Service class was starting at RPS Adult Education where I could add another certification on my resume to gain employment. I worked with Ms. Riley, passed the test in April of 2021, and received the additional certification.

Yet, I always wanted to remain in my profession. During the summer of 2021, Ms. Riley was preparing to teach a new Civics Citizenship Prep class. I decided I no longer wanted to have a conditional residency, but to become a permanent United States citizen. I wanted to take this class as much as I wanted to become gainfully employed.

Becoming a citizen will allow my voice to be heard through the privilege of voting. Foreigners are not allowed to vote unless they are a registered citizen. There are steps, conditions, and specific types of permanent residency applications that foreigners must fill out correctly before taking their test. It is very important to fill out the correct category (such as single, married, divorced) and provide the appropriate verification document that applies to your personal situation. The application could be rejected and have a longer waiting period if it is not properly submitted. For anyone that wants to apply, my suggestion is to review the website www.uscis.gov to see what type of requirements are necessary.

During my application process, there were so many difficulties going on in the United States. It was the start of the pandemic, caravans of refugees crossing at the border, and a shortage of administrative help to process citizenship applications. I could not become overwhelmed with complications. I absolutely had to remain focused on learning the deep historical foundations of the United States in order to pass the test.

I was ready to take the test after my ten weeks of intense classroom studying. However, my confirmed interview appointment in late August of 2021 was canceled with no plans of being rescheduled. I remained hopeful. I continued studying my language skills, citizenship interview questions, and building my self-esteem.

I received my new citizenship interview confirmation for the second week of January 2022, passed my interview test, and became a United States citizen. I continued going on job interviews, but I knew there were conflicts because of my language barriers. I went on an interview for a laboratory technician position at Coca-Cola and was hired.

January of 2022 has been a great start for me. Nobody could ever tell me that this journey was easy, but I can tell anyone that I never gave up. I am very happy becoming a United States citizen, starting a new position in my field, and improving my English language skills with RPS Adult Education classes.

Author’s Note: My ESL Instructor, Janice I. Riley, M.Ed., from RPS Adult Education, assisted me with my SPOTLIGHT submission.