The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Students Create and Run a Program to Help Immigrants Become Citizens

on April 2, 2017

Sadly, it’s a rare time when I find out about something positive happening in America’s schools. So what a thrill it was to read an article in The Oregonian about high school students running a successful program to help immigrants obtain American citizenship. Here’s the story below.

While reading our local newspaper yesterday I found a brief article about groups of students from Portland’s Lincoln High School who have been running a non-profit program since 2009 to help immigrants qualify for American citizenship.

The students who operate this program are members of the school’s award winning “Constitution Team”.  Danny Cohen, a student, has become the executive director of the program.  Since anyone who has competed in the formal contest may not do that again, those young people who worked so hard to learn about our federal government have found a new way to use their knowledge and skills to teach others the basics of our national system

Recently, the Lincoln team also won a $49,970 grant from the State Farm Insurance Company, which has enabled them to advertise their program and attract more enrollees, award modest scholarships to help pay the naturalization fees, buy iPads for student practice, and provide a number of pre-recorded lessons.

At this time about 60 Lincoln students teach classes held in public libraries around Portland. According to the feedback the group has been getting, their work is much admired and many adults in the community would like to get involved, too.

Unfortunately, the article gives no information about how many immigrants have enrolled in the past or currently, or how successful their training has been for them. Nevertheless, I am strongly impressed by the existence of the program itself and can imagine its positive effects for the enrollees and their teachers.

As I have argued before, very important elements of the education process are students’ opportunities to try out their skills and knowledge in real world experiences. Those things should be available for all students throughout their school experience, but in today’s schools they may not be happening at all. There is altogether too much emphasis on student demonstrations of learning through classroom assignments, written work, and tests; and no time or enthusiasm for real world experiences. To make things worse, most of the after school activities for elementary level kids and jobs for high school students no longer exist.

What I would like to see are real world activities for all students at all grade levels. Many different kinds of original speaking, writing, designing, dramatizing, interviewing, investigating, building, and researching can begin in the classroom, and the resulting products can be moved outward to reach parents, friends, and strangers.  Instant success would not always be the result, but that is how young people learn to operate in the adult world.

One response to “Students Create and Run a Program to Help Immigrants Become Citizens

  1. Joan Kramer says:

    Thank you! What a great story and much potential for more!


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