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According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 654,949 people were welcomed as citizens in 2014. On September 17th, Citizenship Day will commemorate this milestone for new Americans. Becoming a citizen in

the United States is often a joyous experience for new immigrants who spend years studying for the naturalization test. Along with a test that includes historical events and political process in the United States, the naturalization test also requires an understanding of English, preparing necessary documents and practicing for the interview.

Many new Americans involve their family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to celebrate this occasion. Citizenship in the United States can be obtained upon birth in the United States, through U.S. citizen parents or through a process referred to as naturalization. Being a citizen provides certain opportunities and privileges to new Americans which include obtaining a passport to travel outside of the U.S., voting in general elections, serving on juries and eligibility for scholarships and governmental grants.

In 2001, my mother became a U.S. citizen after 5 years of being a permanent resident. As a young daughter of Somali refugees who were naturalized, I was granted citizenship by default. As a U.S. citizen, I’ve had the privilege of receiving federal grants and scholarships that made college possible, a passport to study abroad in Thailand, and eligibility for governmental programs like Peace Corps. Today, I enjoy the access afforded to me by having U.S. citizenship, but I remain mindful of the sacrifices made to create these possibilities. Pathways to citizenship are complicated and multi-fold just like the stories and journeys that have motivated us to call the U.S. home.

The Denver Public Library has resources, legal support and programming for new Americans. Please visit us at our participating branches for support including ESL classes, resource guides and legal advice. Come celebrate with Denver Public Library on Thursday, September 17th from 5:00pm-7:00pm at the Ross-Barnum Branch Library. Please join us for testimonials, celebration and legal support.

Plazas are a dedicated space for migrants from all over the world to connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s successful global community. This program engages newcomers of all ages and backgrounds with free opportunities and specialized support as they gain second-language conversation skills, prepare for citizenship, create new networks in business, and exchange perspectives across the immigrant experience.

To find a Plaza program near you, please see our events calendar.