Citizenship classes expand to Crete amid rising need for the resource

Jan. 10, 2024, 5 a.m. ·

The coalition of organizations hosting the citizenship classes mainly in Lincoln and online will be expanding its presence to Crete due to a rising need. (Photo by Global Residence Index/Unsplash)

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Free citizenship classes will be held at the Crete Public Library and hosted by a partnership of five organizations. It’s the newest location to be added to the citizenship program. Andrew Farias works as a policy fellow with the Asian Community and Cultural Center, one of the groups making the classes possible. He said there was a high need in the city for a new pathway to prepare for the citizenship exam.

“We've had people in our virtual classes that are from like, Texas, or California, they don't just have to be in Nebraska,” he said. “But we also recognize that there is a need here at home. So looking into what other nearby communities we can offer support is a really big part of that.”

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, nearly one-fourth of residents living in Crete are not from the U.S.

The classes will be taught in basic English online and in-person. Lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, need to register in order to participate in this quarter’s classes by Jan. 16th. The program is 10 to 12 weeks long and two hours on Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings.

Organizers plan to continue expanding these opportunities in the future.

“We want to show that citizenship programs are working in Nebraska, so that we continue to get this funding for our community, and have that be sustainable,” said Natalie Wiebelhaus, programs manager at the Asian Community and Cultural Center. “But also, I know that there is an interest, you know, nationally, to figure out how to reach more smaller towns and cities and more rural communities.”

The funding for these classes comes from a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grant in which the Asian Community and Culture Center, El Centro de las Américas, Catholic Social Services, Lutheran Family Services and the city of Crete work together to provide more pathways to U.S. citizenship.

The organizations work together to provide support in several languages, even though the grant requires the classes be taught in English. This way, Farias said, there will still be support available in students’ native languages.

“There's that feeling of community and that like, I'm not alone, like I don't feel like I don't know what's going on, I have other people that I can trust who are going to be there,” he explained. “We want to kind of create that atmosphere to ensure that people keep coming back, because that's something that we've encountered as a problem as maybe people will show up the first or second time, but, you know, they don't feel welcome. So we want to ensure that people feel like they're welcome, that we acknowledge that this is something that's not easy.”

The classes will prepare students for the two-section naturalization test that includes an English test and interview as well as a civics test.

Once students complete the course, they will receive free legal assistance in filing for their citizenship application.