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JMU class aids local immigrants on their quest to citizenship

jmuMichelle Cude, professor of social studies education at James Madison University, has designed a class to meet the needs of future teachers and local immigrants seeking citizenship.

The class comes from a 10-year partnership with Skyline Literacy — a program devised as a resource for immigrants to receive aid when learning English and preparing for their citizenship test. By partnering with Skyline Literacy, JMU students gain teaching experience in a cross-cultural setting with ESL (English as Second Language) students.

Comprised of mostly college seniors who are studying to be civics teachers, the class allows future educators to utilize skills that had previously only been theory, while simultaneously meeting a growing need in the local immigrant community.

“Alums who have graduated from this program say it was transformative in their learning by helping them see immigrants and English language learners as real people with genuine needs,” says Cude. “The class helps JMU students better understand the immigrant experience, how to reach out to them and how to best help them on their quest to citizenship.”

In order to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, immigrants must pass a naturalization test comprised of a one-on-one interview, questions on the individual’s application and background, as well as an English and U.S. civic test. For ESL students, being tested on the civic knowledge of a foreign country can be daunting. Cude’s class helps alleviate that fear by providing learning assistance to individuals going through the process by targeting important subject matter in a classroom setting.

“Based on feedback I’ve received; the impact of this class is extremely beneficial for students in their development as future teachers and individuals seeking citizenship. Approximately 35 students attend the class throughout the semester in hopes of becoming naturalized citizens.