Celebrating Independence Day As a New U.S. Citizen
Amelia Solo has waited years to become a U.S. citizen. The Liberian native arrived in Tucson from a refugee camp in Guinea on April 3, 2006. Since then, she has made a home for herself and her family, held a job as a caregiver, and, with the help of the IRC in Tucson, began studying for her U.S. citizenship test.
“I want to be a citizen of the U.S.,” Amelia said. “I came here as a refugee, and now I’m happy. I want to pass the interview so I can be a role model for my daughter.”
Nina Yadobi (r) and Amelia Solo study for their U.S. Citizenship Test. Photo: Emily Coyle/IRC
If Amelia passes her citizenship test, her 15-year-old daughter will automatically become a U.S. citizen as well. However, the citizenship process is not easy; by design, it requires applicants to demonstrate a genuine commitment to and passion for becoming an American.
“To reach this stage, I had to work a lot to save up enough money - $680 – to take the test, plus pay for my daughter’s application,” Amelia said. “I study about 10 hours a week – at classes, listening to the CD in my car, during down time at work.”
Liz Guiles has been volunteering at the IRC in Tucson for more than a year and currently teaches citizenship classes. She has prepared Amelia and other refugees for the test by teaching them about U.S. history, geography, government, and our judicial system.
“I love my country, and I think it’s wonderful that other people want to be a part of this place and make it better,” Liz said. “When refugees come here, they bring a fresh perspective, which enriches our communities and makes us all grow.”
On Monday, May 14, Amelia arrived at the testing location to take her citizenship test.
“I went that morning, and I was the first person they called in at 8 a.m.! The lady told me to take a seat, and started asking me questions.” Six questions and several minutes later, the tester shook Amelia’s hand and congratulated her on passing her U.S. Citizenship test.
“I was so happy!” Amelia said. “I got in my car, turned up the music and drove home. It made me proud of myself. I think I can make it, if I go anywhere.”
This July 4, Amelia will celebrate her first Independence Day as a U. S. citizen. She’s not sure yet exactly how she’ll celebrate, but one thing is certain: it will be a celebration.
“Now, I think I can make it, if I go anywhere,” Amelia said.