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Volunteer Spotlight

Laura: Volunteer Teacher

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Volunteer Teacher Prepares Students for Citizenship Test

April 17, 2024 | We’re highlighting the impressive work of our volunteers all month long in honor of Global Volunteer Month and Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 21-27. Learn more in this question and answer series about what inspires and motivates Laura, our volunteer Citizenship Class teacher.

1) Why do you choose to donate your time to the International Institute of Minnesota?

Working with students at the International Institute of Minnesota is, for me, the ideal volunteer job.  The Institute offers vital and diverse services to New Americans.  As it enhances the lives of New Americans, it also provides significant and long-lasting benefits to the entire community.  I know that I’ll have the support of the Institute’s highly-talented and dedicated staff to assist me in achieving my goals as a volunteer.

2) What kind of volunteering do you do with us?

I’ve been a teacher in the Citizenship Class since 2018. I started as an Assistant Teacher for in-person courses at the Institute, and later became the Lead Teacher for the Saturday History and Citizenship Class for more advanced English-speakers (now offered on Zoom). The course covers U.S. history and government; and speaking, reading, and writing in English. It is designed for students preparing for the test to become U.S. citizens, as well as those who seek an opportunity to learn more about U.S. history and government, and to practice their English skills.

3) Why is this work important to you?

I never fail to leave my Saturday class with feelings of delight and privilege for being able to talk with such dedicated, inquisitive and inspiring students about subjects dear to my heart. The students’ daily lives are filled with earning a living (sometimes with multiple jobs), taking care of their families, and learning a new language and culture, yet they are willing to devote three hours each Saturday morning to come to class eager to ask about how the electoral college works or what it means to “take the Fifth Amendment.”

I want (my students) … to feel welcome in the U.S., to continue their curiosity to learn more about their new country, and to know that they can play an important role in making our community, and our country, better for all.
4) Can you share a memory of a volunteer moment that helped make this work rewarding for you?

It is, of course, rewarding to receive a photo from a beaming new citizen holding an American flag and a brand-new citizenship certificate along with a note of thanks for the class, but just spending three hours on a random Saturday morning with the Institute’s students is immensely rewarding.

5) What kind of impact do you hope your volunteer work has?

Obviously, if one’s role is to prepare students for the Citizenship test, you want the students to be successful and reach their goal of becoming citizens. More broadly, I want them, regardless of whether their goal is citizenship, to feel welcome in the U.S., to continue their curiosity to learn more about their new country, and to know that they can play an important role in making our community, and our country, better for all.

Thank you to Laura for sharing her story and to all our volunteers for the work that helps New Americans become self-sufficient and reach their dreams.

Read More Volunteer Stories

Become a Volunteer

From virtual to in-person opportunities, we have a variety of chances for individuals and groups to volunteer at IIMN. Your time and talents are an essential part of our success in welcoming New Americans to Minnesota.

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