CLASE brings new sense of community amongst staff, students | The American Word

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CLASE brings new sense of community amongst staff, students

Ethan McLeod | 1/13/14 1:18pm

Jeany Guevara saw 16 graduating classes at AU come and go, so she had no reason to suspect the class of 2016 would be different. But she didn’t know Kathy Kim, now a sophomore and co-chair of the Community Leaders Advancing in Spanish and English (CLASE), was coming.

Guevara worked with Kim last year to accomplish a goal she set for herself ever since she arrived in America from El Salvador 16 years ago: become a naturalized U.S. citizen.


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CLASE is an organization created in 2008 to educate AU’s on-campus staff in literacy and writing composition in English and Spanish. Kim and her co-chair, sophomore Vanessa Moyonero, lead the group’s student tutors by working with staff members who make time around their weekly schedules.

Typically, these study sessions come during their hour-long lunch breaks to educate them in reading, speaking and writing in English and Spanish.

“It’s hard to plan for the future when it’s already difficult planning for the present,” Kim said on the staff workers’ efforts to take classes.

Most of CLASE’s tutees are Central American and work for Aramark’s custodial and dining services divisions on campus. In the past, tutors also worked with Bon Apétit workers (before the company switch) as well as shuttle bus operators.

Moyonero notes many workers have different strengths and need tutoring in specific areas, such as writing in languages they can already speak well.

“Even the ones that want to learn English, a lot of them can barely write in Spanish,” Moyonero said. “It’s tough because many of the workers left their countries due to conflicts and couldn’t be fully educated in their native language.”

One of CLASE’s central missions is to help workers pass their U.S. citizenship naturalization exams. The test consists of 10 questions selected out of a pool of 100 potential questions overall, of which six must be answered correctly to pass (check out the sidebar for some of the hardest questions on the test).

The interview for the naturalization exam begins the moment testers meet the administering officer in which they must listen carefully to obey all instructions at risk of failing the test before formally beginning. This may seem simple, but for those who cannot take it in their native language for lack of meeting the 25-year U.S. residence requirement or age requirement of 65, this is often times a losing battle.

All of this comes after the test-taker carefully completes the ten-page application; any errors or omissions on those papers may eliminate the applicant’s citizenship candidacy. It can thus take months or years for a resident seeking citizenship to successfully advance through the process and pass their test.

At AU, there is a generally high level of proximity between students and staff but it is uncommon for students to develop relationships with staff members. CLASE helps to bridge this divide not only through weekly language tutoring sessions, but also events such as monthly luncheons that bring tutors and tutees together outside of sessions to get to know each other better.

Answers to the citizenship test published in the print issue:

1) How many amendments does the constitution have?
A: 27

2) The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
A: 435

3) Who was the President during World War I?
A: Woodrow Wilson

4) When was the Constitution written?
A: 1787

5) What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
A: To give up loyalty to other countries, to defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

6) Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
A: Missouri or Mississippi

7)  Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
A: To represent the 13 original colonies

8) What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
A: To serve jury duty, to vote.

9) Who is the current Chief Justice of the United States?
A: John G. Roberts Jr.

10) If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes president?
A: The speaker of the house