Ambassadors Amplify Citizenship Excitement

Citizenship Ambassadors Help Candidates on the Path to Citizenship

There was a palpable excitement in the Hindu Temple of Canton as people flooded in and staff and volunteers scurried to get ready for the naturalization event. Four Citizenship Ambassador volunteers were spread out in this sea of individuals holding carefully prepared packets, patiently waiting their turn with a slight smile and fidgety fingers. The early arrival of almost every single immigrant looking to apply to become a U.S. citizen was just one indicator of the eagerness in the room. It was a momentous day: becoming a citizen is a proud milestone, and they were here to complete their applications. Many of them accompanied by family, the room overflowed with buzz and anticipation.

The enthusiasm of the Citizenship Ambassadors was equally apparent. Applying for citizenship can also be daunting, and some applicants have had negative experiences with the immigration system – a friendly face can go a long way. Sitting in front of a welcoming and earnest assistant can help the applicants feel more at ease, and reminds them they are not alone in this process. Volunteering to assist at the workshop provided the four Ambassadors a unique opportunity to do something great for their neighbors, city, and community and to be a part of a pivotal experience in other people’s lives.

Citizenship Ambassador Gina Shireman blurted out, “I love this!” as she was checking in an elderly couple, both of who have lived in the region for twenty years, and were applying to become citizens. Ambassadors are everyday people like you and me, and there are endless ways that we can support others with just a little bit of time. U.S.-born volunteers may never know what it is like to become a citizen and join a country we call home, but we can experience what it is like to support others on their journey.

Earlier this year, Global Detroit and the Detroit New Americans Campaign (DNAC) joined forces for the launch of the Citizenship Ambassadors Program to assist eligible individuals on the road to citizenship. The Citizenship Ambassadors Program, an element of the Cultural Ambassadors Program, helps remove the barriers these people face in trying to gain the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of citizenship.

DNAC is part of a national network that is paving a better road to citizenship. It provides assistance on a daily basis and regularly hosts citizenship workshops at which Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) can complete citizenship applications with the assistance of volunteer attorneys.

On May 2nd, DNAC hosted its latest workshop in Canton. Four of Global Detroit’s Citizenship Ambassadors volunteered to help 63 LPRs with their citizenship applications. It was DNAC’s largest workshop to date!

One tenet of the Cultural Ambassadors Program is to keep volunteers meaningfully engaged and effectively utilized. This means recruiting talented individuals who live and work in Michigan and connecting them to opportunities where they can effectively donate those talents. Most of us have acquired skills that we don’t use in our current occupation or daily life. The chance to put those skills to use, especially in a way that can be far-reaching for others, is extremely fulfilling.

Gina Shireman worked in immigration matters for over a decade and brought valuable experience to the May 2nd workshop. Many applicants had questions about the process and timeline, and Gina was able to put her knowledge to use in a way that exemplified the function of the Citizenship Ambassadors Program.

“I haven’t been doing immigration work for about a year now, and it felt really good to get a chance to participate again. It is wonderful to be able to answer questions and provide clarity for metro-Detroiters who need a little reassurance, a listening ear, or practical information. It is such a personal and special experience for people, and I always loved being a part of helping people on that journey,” Gina says about her experience.

IMG_5429Jordan Smoczyk assisted individuals in completing their applications and preparing the documents for submittal. “I think it is important to be a Citizenship Ambassador because citizenship is a great way to further integrate immigrants into American society, but it is a complicated process. As someone who did nothing to receive my citizenship, I feel responsible to help hardworking immigrants navigate the process, so they too can enjoy the opportunities I was born with.”

When asked what moved her to join the Cultural Ambassadors Program, Jordan said:

“I believe the best way to improve international relations is on a one-on-one basis with each visitor to our communities, states, and countries. I want to be a Cultural Ambassador to live better as a world citizen.”

As the emerging field of immigrant economic development continues to grow, of which Global Detroit is a leader, people are looking for ways to participate in fostering a welcoming and supportive community. Integrating the role of immigrants into our economic and social fabric results in a healthier region. The Citizenship Ambassadors Program allows people who want to be involved because they care about Detroit’s future, to help with its revitalization in a big way.

A recent LPR who applied for citizenship at a DNAC workshop is now a Citizenship Ambassador:

“I would really like to do some volunteering in this regard. I believe I am duty bound to help others become US Citizens and thereby serve this country. I was helped by your organization and it was a positive experience.”

The Citizenship Ambassadors is a segment of the Global Detroit Cultural Ambassadors Program, a network of Michigan’s globally-minded individuals who are helping to create a welcoming and inclusive region. Launched in October 2014, over 60 volunteers have already signed up to join the Cultural Ambassadors program. With a broad network of partners, it recruits Michigan residents to volunteer their skills and expertise in the area of immigration and fosters engagement between the receiving community and newcomers to southeast Michigan. Citizenship Ambassadors are directly engaged in assisting Legal Permanent Residents on their path to citizenship.

Do you want to become a Cultural Ambassador? Sign up here.

Are you looking for volunteers, and are you interested in partnering with the Cultural Ambassadors? Email Beth Szurpicki at gdculturalambassador@gmail.com.

About the Detroit New Americans Campaign
The Detroit New Americans Campaign (DNAC) is a collaborative project of five immigrant-based organizations whose purposes are to mobilize and leverage local and national resources, civic and community partners, immigrant communities, and volunteers in an effort to promote and assist naturalization for eligible Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) throughout the metropolitan Detroit area. The project encourages naturalization and its benefits through media-based advocacy, informational sessions, and one-on-one meetings with immigration attorneys in individual appointments, clinics, and group workshops. DNAC is the largest regional collaborative project and with its programs is acknowledged as the “Gateway” to Naturalization in Southeast Michigan. Last year alone DNAC partners assisted over 1,000 LPRs with Naturalization Applications.

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