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Friday, May 28, 2021

Passing the Citizenship Test with Flying Colors

Jaime Zavaleta, Tenant Services Coordinator at The Domenech, works with our senior tenants to create programming that supports engagement and growth. Recently, he told us about his work with Maria:

Before I began working at Breaking Ground, I volunteered at The Domenech starting up a program to engage senior tenants with computers and technology. One of the tenants who participated in the program, Maria, spoke only Spanish and we were able to strike up conversations over time as she learned that I also spoke Spanish.

One day, Maria asked a question I didn’t expect.

“Jaime, crees tu que yo pudiera convertirme en ciudadano estadounidense?”
(“Jamie, do you think I could become a US citizen?”)

“Por que no?”
(“Why not?”)

“Tal vez sea demasiado tarde. Ahora no tiene sentido hacerlo.”
(Maybe it’s too late. There’s no point now.”)

“Es algo que realmente quieres hacer?”
(“Is this something you really want to do?”)

“Sí. Por mucho tiempo.”
(“Yes. For a long time.”)

“Entonces nunca es demasiado tarde.”
(“Then it’s never too late.”)

When I joined Breaking Ground as a staff member and continued to work with our senior tenants at The Domenech, and nearby Redwood Senior Living, I kept up with Maria’s progress.

After our conversations about citizenship, Maria began to speak about it with her daughter, and they embarked on the long process of applying for and completing the citizenship test.

On February 17th, 2021, Maria passed her citizenship test. And on Friday, May 21st, she was sworn in as a naturalized United States Citizen.

While speaking with Maria after the ceremony, she told me, “nunca habría tenido el valor de hacer esto si no me hubieras animado.” (“I would never have had the courage to do this if you hadn’t encouraged me.”)

In that moment, I realized how important it is to offer an encouraging word, no matter your role. You never know how great an impact a gentle, positive word can have on someone. Working for Breaking Ground has helped me see this.

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