Celebrating Citizenship - Honoring a helper for those hoping to become U.S. citizens.

Claremore Cares - Citizenship

Honoring a helper for those hoping to become U.S. citizens

“I remembered my grandparents becoming American citizens. They had to do it by memory because they couldn’t read and write.” – Malinda Brown

Malinda Brown spent one year in retirement before quickly realizing it wasn’t quite right for her. The Claremore resident decided to put her past experiences as a teacher and lawyer to use as an instructor for soon-to-be citizens in Rogers County. 

As part of the Rogers County Literacy Council, Brown leads those wanting to become U.S. citizens in classes to learn about our country’s civics and history in order to prepare them for the citizenship test they must pass. 

“It’s been such a joy,” she says. 

Sept. 17 is Constitution and Citizenship Day, and it’s people like Brown who are helping to make Rogers County a more inclusive, welcoming place for all who aspire to the American dream. 

The class is offered for a few hours each week to learners for about 12 to 15 weeks. The class  – free to learners – is funded by the federal government’s Library Services and Technology Act grant and administered by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Museum and Library Services. Information for the class is provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which also administers the citizenship tests and interviews. The USCIS provides materials such as workbooks and flashcards to participants, who gain confidence in their language abilities and learning techniques. More than 50 learners have taken part in the class during the past few years. 

One thing that many people must remember, Brown says, is that the test is given in English, often times a second or third language of someone seeking citizenship. 

“Our program is not only learning the information you need to know to become a citizen, but also working on your English, so when you go to take the test and do the interview, you can understand and speak English well enough to do that,” she adds.

The grant is specifically for Rogers County, and classes are held in Claremore and Catoosa. The Rogers County Literacy Council (RCLC) Director is Edel Godwin.

Due to COVID-19, classes have not been meeting in person. Instead, Brown created a series of YouTube videos to go over the information needed for the test, a mix of civics and history of the United States. 

Brown says there are a possible 100 questions that test-takers can be asked. They are given 10 questions out of those 100 and must answer six correctly to pass. And it must be done in the English language. 

Brown says it is an honor to help the learners. 

“They are just so smart and so diligent and so enthused and so proud to be working to become citizens,” she says. “It’s just an amazing chance for me to give back a little in honor of those people who helped my family when I was growing up.”

To learn more, visit rocoread.org.