Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Citizenship Classes—No Trivial Matter!
"I'm a lot of fun at parties," quips Don Schulze. "I know a bunch of 'trivia.'" Don also makes his classes lots of fun, but his class material is not trivial. As a volunteer for the Nations Ministry Center in Nashville, Tennessee, he teaches citizenship preparation to immigrants who want to make America their official country as well as their home.
Most of Don's students are refugees. They've fled persecution, survived war, endured the hardships of overcrowded camps, and now have to navigate a new culture, a new language, and a new life. Not shying away, they choose to take the next step to become United States citizens.
To pass the test, applicants must answer only six questions correctly. Sounds easy, but the catch is that the questions chosen come from a pool of 100. So students have to know all 100 answers to be sure of passing the six they are asked. No trivial task! The test is the equivalent of a final exam from a high school civics course—U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, government structures, American history, and the principles upon which this country was founded—information many native born citizens couldn't easily answer at a party!
Don teaches with a lightness that includes fun as well as facts, learning to know each student and recognizing the ranges of challenges individuals face, and listening to their stories as well as teaching the material that will be tested. "I have enormous respect for these people," says Don. "It's humbling to realize the obstacles they have had to overcome." Getting to know the people and seeing them desire this next step into citizenship keeps him volunteering.
After retiring, Don and his wife moved from California to Nashville in 2011. His interest in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) led him to the citizenship classes when he learned about the Nations Ministry Center from his church. The Center, which resources new arrivals to this country in a variety of ways, has other volunteer opportunities, as well. Among those are job coaching, helping school children learn to read in their new language, and assisting families, as they find their way in a new city and a new life.
For more about the Nations Ministry Center, listen to Retire-to Volunteering Podcast #80 or visit their website nationsministrycenter.org.