United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Sept. 17 that it has renewed a joint grant application between Community College of Aurora and two local service organizations to continue offering citizenship classes at a reduced rate in an effort to help area residents prepare for the process of becoming American citizens.
CCA and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains (LFSRM) subcontracted with Colorado African Organization (CAO) on the program for fiscal year 2015. The federal government awarded $248,364 to the Colorado Collaborative Citizenship Program for the period starting Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2017.
CCA will receive $49,167 over the two-year period in order to subsidize its Citizenship class, allowing students to pay $40 to attend instead of the full $165 charge. The college hopes to serve 110 students annually.
Colorado African Organization also hopes to serve an additional 120 legal permanent residents through its concurrent citizenship classes. Lutheran Family Services provides legal support to help diverse and underserved populations navigate the process of securing legal citizenship.
“What the grant has allowed us to do is double the amount of class offerings,” said Christopher Tombari, chair of CCA’s English as a Second Language department.
“Prior to that, students were paying the full fee to take Citizenship, and we were able to run a class. But now we run two classes per term. And instructor Irene O’Brien’s students get their citizenship in huge numbers.”
CCA’s Community ESL program has been providing classes to the local community since 2003 and currently serves over 2,000 students annually, representing approximately 65 countries and 60 languages.
CCA’s citizenship program began in January 2008 through the college’s Center for Workforce Development. Administration of the program was transferred to the Community ESL program in Fall 2012. Students now attend 10-week sessions for four hours per week.
In fiscal year 2013’s grant cycle, CCA and CAO combined to provide citizenship instruction to 241 individuals and boasted a 98 percent success rate of students completing the training class and passing the naturalization process.
CAO and CCA’s outreach plan will include leveraging partnerships with the City of Aurora’s immigrant liaison staff and the new Aurora Welcome Center.
The college also will focus on its ESL student base and other community channels, including The Learning Source, which serves over 3,000 ESL students annually through Aurora Public Schools and the Asian Pacific Development Center.
“The renewal of this grant is integral to the program,” said Janel Highfill, director of grants and planning for CCA. “Our program serves immigrants and refugees and a large number of them have their eyes on the prize. Citizenship is a significant goal. We’re excited that we can keep providing this service.”
In total, USCIS awarded nearly $10 million in grants to 40 organizations in 26 states that will help green-card holders prepare and apply for citizenship.