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Preparing first time voters at the IRC in LA

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With the November election fast approaching, we’d like to share with you what we’ve been doing to help prepare a new cohort of US citizens for their civic duties! Our Citizenship and Financial Capability Program staff have implemented brand new Voter Guides into our classes (which as of March 2020, are all virtual), and the results have been major electoral wins. 

IRC Citizenship Class volunteer instructor, Katie Royal, with her student Sonoko. Photo: Kimberly Blum

Two of our volunteer citizenship class instructors, Kimberly Blum and Katie Royal, have gone above and beyond to ensure that their students feel not only prepared, but excited to cast their first votes as US citizens. After covering the Constitution and branches of government, the pair wanted to incorporate mock elections into the class to highlight the importance of voting as both a right and a responsibility of citizenship. The timing was perfect, as they were in the midst of primary elections, and had been encouraging students to follow current events. Real life examples help students place what they're learning into context and make it more meaningful.

One of IRC's citizenship class students, Elena, happy to be casting her vote! Photo: Kimberly Blum

"After all was said and done, we held our mock election! We had covered the entire process of how to vote and what to do, so we incorporated those same concepts into our mock election. We had stressed the importance of voting throughout the session (and the pride one feels after having voted!), so by the time we got to our mock elections, they were excited! We really wanted to ensure they would be excited about voting, understand the importance, and be eager to register to vote and participate as citizens, so we tried to make the activity as fun as possible. Nothing fancy, but we put together a red, white and blue polling station with streamers and balloons and a ballot box. We brought in popcorn to celebrate with afterwards. The end result was that they were all pretty excited to vote and they definitely walked away with a firm understanding of the importance and necessity of voting, and how the process should work when they become citizens!"

With the emergence of COVID-19, all of IRC's citizenship classes have moved to online platforms as of March 2020. As we move forward, we will continue covering voter guidelines, and how they might change under new social distancing and quarantine rules (such as using mail-in ballots). Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure that immigrants are confident in their rights and responsibilities as they become new US citizens.  

If you or anyone you know are interested in signing up for virtual citizenship classes, please contact Jonathan Fein Proano, Integration Manager, at jonathan.feinproano [at] rescue.org.