Last Saturday, Oct. 13, nine members of the University of Dallas Spanish club helped immigrants fill out applications for citizenship at the annual J. Erik Jonsson Central Library Mega Citizenship workshop.
This is the third year the spanish club has participated in this workshop and the club hopes to start attending similar workshops on a weekly or monthly basis, according to club president Helen Trumble.
This is the fourth workshop the library has hosted in its recent history, according to Heather Lowe, UD library administrator.
Spanish professor Nicole Lasswell, the club’s faculty sponsor, said that she first introduced the club to this workshop after learning about it through Nubia Torres, the director of Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Dallas.
Trumble said that the spanish club partners with Catholic Charities to participate in this event every year. She added that this year, she and Racquel Rodriguez, club vice president, coordinated with Torres for a trainer to come to the UD campus to prepare spanish club members for the Mega Citizenship workshop.
Anyone who has completed the training is eligible to assist in the Mega workshop, according to Trumble.
Trumble also explained that this particular workshop is for documented immigrants seeking citizenship, which is a significant step for any immigrant. If an undocumented immigrant were to come to this event, each volunteer is trained and equipped to refer them to resources that will help them start the process of applying for a green card.
Most individuals must be permanent residents, or green card holders, for five years before applying for citizenship.
Art major Agneiska Rostkowski said she did the training and workshop to prepare herself to serve Hispanic communities in Chicago.
“I live in a very Hispanic community in Chicago, and I know a lot of them are immigrants,” Rostkowski said. “I worked in a place [with] a lot of elderly people, and I knew that they didn’t really have a choice in working where they did.”
Rostkowski said she has met immigrants who would greatly benefit from knowledge and help with immigration status and financial aid, and that this is her first “small step” in helping those people.
Unlike Rostkowski, Gwendolyn Loop, a double major in Politics and English, said that she was never exposed to a lot of diversity in the area of Wisconsin she is from.
“[It intrigued me because] it’s not something I would be able to do in my normal sphere of comfort,” Loop said. “It’s really awesome that we get those opportunities to help people in ways we wouldn’t normally be able to, or even think of, and being able to… make people feel like they’re more at home, as a part of a family, and more a part of [the United States] culture.”
Loop said that she helped one man that who is a long-time US resident and recently resolved to receive citizenship so that he could vote and become a part of our country’s decision-making process.
Another Spanish club member, Victoria Salazar, commented that the experience added to her “own national pride.” She said that the length and complexity of the process reminds the people who are helping “how great it is to be a citizen here, and to even have the freedom to help these people.”
Trumble said that some of the students, including herself, initially felt daunted by the workshop. After completing the event, Trumble challenged other UD students to step out of their comfort zones as well.
“Do something that scares you,” Trumble said. “Get to know other people and other cultures, because you can learn so much from it, broaden your perspective, and become a better, more well-rounded person.”