ParasI remember the first time I visited Ellis Island. It was a windy day, but I couldn’t feel any gusts because my seventh-grade classmates and I were in the gift shop, determining how to best spend our field trip allowance. As I perused my options, I spotted a T-shirt which had “Indian-American” across the top. I immediately bought it because I thought it was cool that I would be the only person in my school, which was 96% white, with this shirt. In fact, during history class one day, my teacher was in the midst of talking about why so many immigrants moved to America in the late 1800s when she noticed my shirt and asked me a simple question – why did your family move to America?

I came to learn that, despite the comforts of living in his motherland, my father recognized the lack of opportunities available for his family in India and decided to move to America. After meeting my relatives from India, I recognize how vastly different my life would have been and am appreciative of the hardships my father endured to get us here. I joined Project Citizenship because I want to help immigrants obtain U.S. citizenship so they too can access these same opportunities.

During my year at Project Citizenship, I have had the opportunity to meet many immigrants and hear about why they moved to America and, most importantly, why they want to become U.S. citizens. From being able to vote to joining the army to simply feeling closer to the country they call home, their motivation to grow and succeed in America is what inspires me to contribute to this worthy cause. When I volunteered at my first citizenship workshop, I though citizenship was a straightforward process, but I quickly came to realize that it is actually a complex and onerous process. There is no doubt that Project Citizenship, by guiding applicants from start to finish, provides a valuable service to those who need it most. 2016 was a banner year for Project Citizenship – our staff of four and many volunteers and interns submitted more than 1,500 applications! This accomplishment is not by accident. It is directly correlated to the incredible efficiency, deep knowledge, and tireless attitude of Project Citizenship. In 2017, we plan to submit even more applications and help even more people achieve their dreams. I hope that you will join us in this journey by volunteering at citizenship workshops, making a donation (every dollar helps!), and spreading the word about the work we are doing. Everyone has a reason why they contribute to Project Citizenship, so what’s yours?

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