Celebrating the Success of Community-Based Citizenship Programs

As the nation readies to celebrate Constitution Week, September 17-23, ODL announces Citizenship Grant recipients for 2021

Friday, September 17 is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. The date also begins Constitution Week, a time for Americans to reflect on the two cornerstones of American democracy: the document that has established the basis of our way of life, and the responsibility of citizens to protect and defend that document and the values it represents.

The Naturalization process that provides a path to U.S. citizenship for immigrants serves as a constant renewal of America’s civic life. Native-born citizens who attend Naturalization ceremonies often remark on the pride they feel as they watch the newest Americans take their oath.

Constitution Week has particular significance this year as the nation prepares to welcome thousands of Afghan refugees following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Approximately 1,800 of those refugees are expected to be resettled in Oklahoma.

Some of those refugees seeking U.S. citizenship will find help at Oklahoma libraries or through the state’s adult literacy organizations. 2021 is the eighth year of ODL’s Citizenship and Immigration Project, which supports local programs that have helped 289 immigrants become citizens since the project began. Fourteen library/literacy programs have received grants since the project began, and these programs have served individuals from 44 different countries.

Above and Below: Participants in the Citizenship and Immigration classes offered by Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Services. The library began as a Citizenship pilot site in 2014 and has helped 65 immigrants become citizens. Twelve of those took their oath in FY 20.

“The path to citizenship can be a long one,” according to Rebecca Barker, coordinator for grants and English language learning in ODL’s Literacy Resource Office. “In 2020 we saw 63 immigrants associated with the project take their oath, but some of those individuals have been studying with their local programs for years. It’s a big investment of time for both those seeking citizenship and for the libraries and literacy programs committed to providing this service.”

It’s time well spent, Barker says. “Volunteers and staff at the local programs are as excited about program students achieving citizenship as the students are themselves. It’s very fulfilling to know you’ve helped make such a difference in someone’s life.”

ODL is awarding eight Citizenship Grants this month.

Recipients of 2021 Citizenship and Immigration Grants: These grants, carried out in partnership between libraries and literacy programs, provide funds for comprehensive projects that offer instruction and resources for individuals seeking citizenship. Funds must be used to support the partnership while providing citizenship instruction and strengthening the ability of librarians to guide immigrants to credible citizenship information. Community partnerships must play a key role in promoting these services. All of these grant recipients are continuing already-established programs

  • Ardmore Public Library – $14,000
  • Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Services — $14,000
  • Community Literacy Centers, Inc. and Metropolitan Library System — $12,282
  • Duncan Area Literacy Council and Duncan Public Library — $13,500
  • Great Plains Literacy Council and Southern Prairie Library System (serving Harmon and Jackson counties) – $14,000
  • Lawton Adult Literacy Center at Lawton Public Library – $14,000
  • Rogers County Literacy Council and Will Rogers Library, Claremore – $14,000

Recipient of 2021 Citizenship Corner Grant: This grant is used to set up a dedicated spot in the library with resources for individuals seeking citizenship. Funds must be used to enhance resources and strengthen the ability of librarians to guide immigrants to the most accurate and current citizenship information available. Local partnerships between libraries and community organizations should play a key role in providing these services.

  • Guymon Public Library and Arts Center — $3,410

Guymon is a first-time recipient of a Citizenship Grant. Grants for the Project are possible thanks to funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

More to read…

ODL’s Citizenship Project caught the eye of IMLS when it began in 2014

Some local programs were already in existence when the ODL project began. In 2014, KSWO-TV posted this story on the Great Plains Literacy Council.

Daily Ardmoreite: Beginning the Path to Citizenship