I remember very clearly the day that my mother finished the naturalization process and the elation she felt for both becoming an American citizen, and for finally completing the process. While volunteering with Project Citizenship I am able to be a very small part of this same journey for others, which is incredibly rewarding. Thank you to Project Citizenship for the work you do in organizing citizenship workshops, promoting the value of citizenship and advocating for the rights of immigrants.
I have made it a personal goal to use my legal career in a way that makes an impact on issues facing our community. In law school I was a member of Boston University’s Pro Bono Pledge Program, and now I feel very fortunate to work at WilmerHale, a law firm with historic ties and dedicated commitment to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge. WilmerHale’s collaboration with Project Citizenship provides young attorneys like myself with meaningful opportunities to help families achieve the dream of becoming United States citizens. As a child of immigrants myself, I know that the path to citizenship is both exciting and daunting, and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with Project Citizenship in helping applicants navigate the legal and emotional barriers to becoming citizens.
Being an American citizen means so many things to me. It means being part of the fabric of a country in which I can practice whatever religion I like, or not worship at all. It means being able to speak my mind without fear of government reprisal. It means being able to vote for those who run my country. But most of all, it means being a citizen of the greatest country in the world. I chose to volunteer for Project Citizenship because immigrants are what make our country great and moreover, I would like to aid naturalization applicants to officially become part of it.
Gabi Serrato Marks
I really enjoy volunteering with Project Citizenship because the workshops allow me to talk with lots of applicants about how excited they are to become citizens. My grandparents went through the naturalization process many years ago when they came to the U.S. from Mexico, and I wish that they had a program like Project Citizenship to make it easier. I hope that by contributing a little bit of time on a few Saturdays, I can help other families like mine. I have also recruited some of my friends to volunteer with me, so we get to work together and share the experience. It is a great way for all of us to engage with our community.
One of the ladies I helped at the event was a day older than my mom. She was so sweet and showed me her two kids. Her older son is actually about to graduate high school this year. It reminded me that people immigrate to start a new life, to find success in a new world. But life in a foreign place isn’t always easy. This is why I volunteered for Project Citizenship, because immigrants should be able to achieve what they set out to find here. I hope that the lady I helped will find it one day.
Joining Project Citizenship was particularly special to me as an immigrant. Becoming a citizen is an exciting and emotional event, but it can be stressful when you are unfamiliar with the process. I volunteered to help provide assistance to people who find themselves needing guidance throughout the naturalization process, but who might not be able to access it otherwise. Advocating for a positive image of immigrants, an image that supports inclusion, is a cause that I support greatly. Project Citizenship is a great initiative with a great purpose and I hope that it continues to grow in Boston and other cities across America.
Chris Van Buren
“I volunteer to give back and to empower immigrant communities. Most Americans can trace their ancestry back to brave men and women who chose to come to this country. It’s important not to forget those who are making that journey for the first time. I am so grateful for the chance to work with Project Citizenship.”
“Becoming a U.S. citizen is a very important pinnacle in people’s journey to become an American. It allows them to become full members of society and participate in democracy. It is rewarding to help people approach what can otherwise seem like a daunting application and process. The structure and support provided by Project Citizenship made it all possible!”
“Volunteering with Project Citizenship is an easy way to make an immediate difference in people’s lives. The clients have amazing stories to tell, and it is incredibly satisfying to help them become US citizens. Project Citizenship provides its volunteers with great training and support, so it’s easy to get involved.”
“I was interested in this opportunity because Project Citizenship is an organization that directly helps people take the first step in this difficult process. It is a great way to be involved in an issue about which I am passionate and make a real contribution to individuals’ lives.”
“I am new to America as an exchange student from Hong Kong for this Fall semester. I believe I should be exposing myself to different kinds of activities which will help me know more about America and back in Hong Kong I have always heard of America as an increasingly diversified country because of immigrants and naturalization etc. That’s why I hoped to know more about that procedure which permanent residents have to go through to become American citizens and the workshop organized by Project Citizenship which I knew about through the BU Law Pro Bono Program really interested me. This was my first time participating in a workshop by Project Citizenship and it was really eye-opening. I have understood more about the procedures and the associated difficulties. I am very glad that I joined and would like to help again.”
“I volunteer at Project Citizenship because I feel that it is a wonderful opportunity to help people that are really in need. All the applicants coming to us are eager to become U.S. citizens. Getting citizenship is something of great importance to them and even to their family members, but the naturalization process seems too complicated for them. Also, some of the applicants do not have the money to talk to an immigration attorney to discuss on their tricky issues. Project Citizenship then becomes a rescue. By volunteering in Project Citizenship, I have used my knowledge to make the process easier and more accessible to them. I have the feeling that I am helping people every second to achieve their happiness and life convenience. This, in return, gives me huge happiness and a sense of achievement. Meanwhile, by talking to them face-to-face and hearing their lifetime stories, I have gained more knowledge about their life here and the neighborhoods in the great Boston area. It is extremely valuable to enrich my experience here as an LL.M. graduate.”
“Having worked with immigrant clients as an advocate at a local non-profit and later as a law student, I am familiar with the many barriers to naturalization for individuals. Citizenship can provide many benefits to those I have worked with, and yet the naturalization process can be daunting. As a law student, I hoped to use my education and training to make the citizenship application process a little more accessible to those interested in naturalization, and I was honored to be trusted with this responsibility. The citizenship workshop was a phenomenal and fun opportunity for me to work with legal permanent residents as they move closer toward achieving citizenship–a dream for many.”
“As the son and brother of naturalized citizens, I’ve seen first hand the way that obtaining US citizenship changes the way people see their place in their communities and their new home. I work for immigrant rights, and we always talk about citizenship as a indicator of a person’s social, economic, and civic integration. But seeing it first hand in my personal life has really shown me how important it is not just for the individuals who are applying, but also for their families and the communities they live in.”
“It was my first citizenship workshop and I learned so much by applying the training we received to a practical setting. I volunteered because I find it rewarding to have face to face contact with people that I may be able to help. Also I’m fascinated by the stories and experiences of the applicants. I have found that I get a great deal of satisfaction if I can give the slightest assistance by clearing up a question or resolving any issues that the applicant may have about the immigration process.”
“I am not myself an US citizen, I arrived from France a couple of months ago to study law at Boston College. When I arrived in Boston I felt very welcomed and I thought it would be great to give back to the Boston community by getting involved with Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative. Being a law student I thought I could effectively help people in their citizenship application. I know first hand that it is not always easy to get used to a new culture and a new language. And, in any case, legal paperwork can be a challenge for anyone who is not familiar with the forms.”
Andrew J. Diehl
“I volunteered at Citizenship Day [in Boston] because it was an easy way for me to use my training as a lawyer to make a positive difference in people’s lives. The prospect of becoming a citizen from some of the folks that we assisted would be a life changing event. I couldn’t think of a more fulfilling way to spend my Saturday. With all of the support that the Project Citizenship provides, there was no need for prior experience, and thus no reason not to participate. I expect to volunteer at more events like this in the future.”
“Volunteering with Project Citizenship is an amazing opportunity that never fails to remind me how each individual immigrant story plays an incredible, irreplaceable role in strengthening the fabric of our community. As a law student, it is so rewarding to be out of the classroom and reminded how the legal profession can step outside of the typical office and provide access and opportunity to those most in need. Sharing in the joy each new American exhibits is an unsurpassed reward.”
“After having helped loved ones complete mountains of immigration paperwork, I know how confusing and complicated it can be. I’m happy to have an opportunity to use that experience to help make the process easier for others. Difficulty filling out paperwork, or the inability to afford legal help, shouldn’t be a barrier to one’s ability to become a citizen and fully participate in our democracy.”
“As a first generation Vietnamese American, I volunteer in citizenship work because I believe all immigrants deserve as much coherent and personal help as possible to make the experience even slightly less stressful. After seeing so many of my relatives successfully receive their citizenship, I know how important it is for immigrants to speak to someone who takes a vested interest in their culture and community. There are so many barriers — geographical, language, cultural, etc. — that they have to overcome to become an American, so I volunteer to help make that transition as easy and fair as possible.”
“When I moved to Boston two years ago, it was to began a service year in Boston middle school. My interaction with several of my students parents, many of whom were immigrants, inspired me to begin another service year with the New American Integration Program. Through my service at the Irish International Immigrant Center, I have learned that citizenship means so much more than a piece of paper or a US passport; it means security, opportunity, and liberty.”
Shweta Mishra is a former volunteer at numerous Project Citizenship events. Volunteering at several MIRA events, Shweta enjoyed interacting with applicants and working on citizenship applications. In addition, she volunteered several weeks of her time at Project Citizenship helping to do outreach and recruit other volunteers. While Shweta has moved back to her home in India, she still keeps up with the work of Project Citizenship. We wish her all the best and thank her for her time volunteering!
My name is Winston Pierre. I am originally from Haiti. I am currently a junior double-majoring in political science and psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I graduated from the Media Communication Technology High School in West Roxbury, where I was a member of the National Honor Society and a member of the Debate Team. I am also a member of Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and University College Honors at UMass Boston. As an active participant in my community, I also serve as a Democracy Coach for Generation Citizens through which I teach an Action Civic course for middle school students and encourages young students to advocate for their rights and care about issue in their community. Apart from volunteering with MIRA, I am also a volunteer judge for the Boston Debate League, as Assistant to the Executive Director of the Haitian studies Project at UMass. My long term goal is to become a politician.
I chose to volunteer with MIRA because I think this is the right thing to do. My community is very important to me. At MIRA I feel like there is a way I can make an immediate impact in helping my community. Additionally, I am also aware of how there is the need to help the Haitian community with translation and interpretation at citizenship clinic workshops. So it feels great to be able to contribute in helping a family to gain their citizenship, which is massively important to the immigrants and the refugee community. Acquiring their citizenship usually brings them an overwhelming joy, and to be able to contribute to the process of why some people are happy is something I am very humble about, and it is dear to me as well. Also, as an immigrant myself, I feel like it is a great way to give back to this particular community by volunteering with an organization such as MIRA that is very active in promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees.
“I live in Somerville and am the Arts in Education Specialist at United South End Settlements in Boston. I started learning Spanish in high school, minored in it in college and spent 2 years in Panama as a Peace Corps volunteer a few years ago. I have friends who are immigrants and from them have learned about what a complicated process it is to become a citizen. I’m hoping to put my Spanish to use at citizenship clinics in the future!”
I am originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin (Go Packers!), and moved to Boston in 2006. After working at a construction company in Boston for about four years, I decided to pursue a career in law so that I could advocate for those in need. I enrolled at Suffolk University Law School in 2010 and have not looked back! Currently, I work at Perry, Krumsiek & Dolan, a law firm in Boston that offers service in a wide variety of practice areas. I love my job because I get to work with intelligent and successful attorneys every day! I help out on cases involving employment discrimination, landlord/tenant issues, foreclosures, business disputes, and personal injury matters.
Why is citizenship important to you and/or why do you volunteer to help people become citizens? I am truly inspired by those who immigrate to a new country – getting acclimated to new surroundings while overcoming a language barrier and trying to support a family must be such a difficult feat. It was difficult for me to transition from the Midwest to the East Coast! The sacrifice that some people will make to achieve the American dream is truly inspiring. I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for Project Citizenship because I wanted to join their efforts in helping legal permanent residents overcome the barriers to naturalization and help make the transition for New Americans a little easier.
What is your history with this type of volunteerism? I worked as a student attorney in the Suffolk University Law School Juvenile Defenders Clinic. Juvenile justice is always something that I have been passionate about. During my year working as a student attorney, I was assigned to research the collateral consequences of juvenile delinquency and immigration. I found out that 20% of undocumented immigrants in this country are children under the age of 18. Certain “bad acts” can affect the deportability, inadmissibility, and adjustment of status for these undocumented children. I believe in Project Citizenship’s mission to help residents overcome barriers to citizenship so that everyone can attend college and receive the benefits that citizenship has to offer!
How did you connect with Project Citizenship? I saw that Project Citizenship was looking for volunteers on the Suffolk Law career website. I did some research on the organization and decided that I wanted help.