Gazing through the windows or walking the halls of Tacoma Community House from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. during the education quarter, you see classrooms filled with eager adult learners trying to improve their English skills or learning American history in order to pass the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) exam to become American citizens. However, during the last 30 minutes of one citizenship class last summer, the room was filled with celebratory noise as Jania, the most recent TCH Immigration Services participant to receive her citizenship, returned to share her experience with her classmates over the quintessential American party foods of pizza, cake and soda (which she provided).
Originally from Guatemala, Jania moved to the United States 19 years ago seeking a better life. Guatemala’s 33 year civil war – a microcosm of the uprisings that took place in Central America between indigenous peoples and conservative regimes – was just coming to an end. Though the first few years in the U.S. were rough, Jania has had a good life as she found a stable job and watched her children excel in school. To symbolize the importance of her journey in the United States, Jania wanted to become a citizen. Upon hearing that permanent residents can apply for citizenship and take classes at no cost, Jania enrolled in Citizenship Classes in January 2014. After 6 months on the road to citizenship – which included filling out applications, taking fingerprints, waiting, familiarizing herself with U.S. history and conversational English, Jania took and passed her citizenship exam with a perfect score!
When asked how it felt to become a citizen, taking a deep breath of relief, she answered “profudamente satisfecha” which from Spanish translates to “profoundly satisfied.” “This has opened doors for me to have a better life for myself and my family.” Jania mentioned that a better life for her meant having the opportunity to vote. She specifically recalled learning about the democratic process in citizenship class and her teacher telling the class, “Your voice matters.”
Janai’s return to the classroom was an added blessing along her journey. She said that she was so filled with happiness, she wanted to share it with others. Most importantly, she felt compelled to return to TCH to give her classmates hope. “I wanted them to know that all that they were going through will not be in vain. I wanted them to know that they will make it,” she added.
Jania reached this milestone along with her daughter Jania Sarai. Last year, Jania Sarai graduated from a national technical college where she specialized in Forensic Science. She hopes to further her education, fulfill her dream of becoming an American citizen and serve in the military.
Jania and her family await the day when her classmates also become U.S. citizens and are ‘profundamente satisfecha!’