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Souad came to LLC in the spring, eager to get her citizenship. She had tried once already earlier in the winter and did not pass the exam. In her mid-70’s, Souad surprised me with her energy and her drive to achieve her goal. Originally Souad is from Lebanon and she has lived in the States for more than ten years with her family. With only 2 years of education from her country, it would need to take a lot of hard work and focus in 6 weeks to achieve her goal.

Soon after, I started tutoring Souad to prepare her for the citizenship exam. There was no time for “getting to know you” and introductory lessons, we had 6 weeks until her next scheduled attempt to obtain citizenship. We jumped right into the material from the book Voices of Freedom, a book made specifically for English Language Learners preparing for the citizenship exam. As quickly and thoroughly as possible, we moved through the book and focused specifically on dictation, a significant part of the test that Souad struggled with in the past.

I would come to our tutor sessions, and Souad had pages and pages of practice in her notebook from the last time we met. Every session I assigned her homework (which she always completed), but what impressed me most was her discipline and determination to write difficult sentences 4 or 5 times in a row to hit on the repetition she needed.

It was mid-July and it was our last tutor session together. Souad had her exam in 4 days, and I did everything I could to help prepare her. LLC and her family were all cheering her on to pass. During that session, we worked up to the last minute, and we said our goodbyes.  I told Souad to call me when she passed that Friday. Days passed, and it was Friday afternoon. I knew she had taken the test in the morning, and I hadn’t received a phone call. I waited and decided to contact her daughter-in-law that evening. My hopes were low, until I got the news that she passed! “Souad is now an American citizen!” I was so thrilled. Moved by Souad’s determination and so incredibly proud of her, I congratulated the her and the family.

After a year of hard work as an AmeriCorps Member, this was the perfect news to have at the end of my term. After thinking about my time here at AmeriCorps, I realized that even more than teaching English, we have been able to empower students. We were able to give students confidence and the ability to believe in themselves. With Souad receiving her citizenship, it was such a tangible way of knowing how my time as an AmeriCorps Member helped make a difference.

By Janna Starr, AmeriCorps Member

Loudoun Literacy Council

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