June 17th, 2019

sccc logo 2017ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


People looking to become U.S. citizens have a chance this month to take a step in that direction with a course through Seward County Community College’s Business & Industry (B&I) office.

Registrations are taking place now through Jan. 17 for B&I’s citizenship classes to prepare eligible legal permanent residents for the U.S. naturalization process.

“Right now, registration is going on at the Colvin Center,” B&I Director Norma Jean Dodge said. “They can register there only Monday through Thursday. That time is from 9 to noon and from 1 to 3, and the class actually starts on Jan. 22.”

The Colvin Center is located at 930 N. Kansas Ave. in Liberal.

SCCC has offered the citizenship class for many years under the instruction of Elva Morales. Janeth Vazquez has now taken over teaching the class, and Dodge said Vazquez’s class is great for the people that go through it.

“Besides getting them ready for their citizenship, she goes through a lot of different things they may have questions about,” she said. “It’s just a unique opportunity for those in the area who have thought about it but have not had the little nudge to do that. Maybe this would be a great time for them to just take the class and think, ‘Okay, yeah now I want to go obtain my citizenship.’”

In the recent past, talks between officials in Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City had focused on bringing a testing facility to Southwest Kansas, but as of yet, nothing has evolved. 

Dodge said, though, work has been done to help bring some of the process to the area.

“A while back, they did have somebody come out and do some things, but interviews and everything has been in Wichita,” she said. 

Dodge said Vazquez continues to work to help bring a facility to the arad.

“She’s been doing lots of communication with the media and with the state level,” she said. “She went to D.C. and had some discussions out there.”

This is Vazquez’s third semester teaching the citizenship class, and she is excited to be offering it again.

“She said she’s had a very good success rate, and her students range between 17 years old to 60 years old,” Dodge said.

The class is taught to people from all over the world, and Vazquez said officials with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) have come to Liberal with a mobile unit through an effort from the City of Liberal.

“If they have a large amount of applicants, they’ll come here,” she said. “They do these appointments here in Liberal in city offices. They come out here for two or three days.”

When students complete the course, Vazquez gives them a celebration. 

“We have a completion celebration,” she said.

Just before they officially complete the class, though, as is the case with most courses, Vazquez gives a test to her students.

“I pretend to be the USCIS officer, and I do a mock test from the moment they walk in till the moment they leave,” she said. “I’ll do some of the most common questions, and I’ll do the English, civics, reading and writing tests. It’s all like if it was the real deal.”

Vazquez said as more classes are taught at SCCC, interest from people wanting to become U.S. citizens is increasing.

“I’ve had quite a bit of calls and messages and e-mails from people wanting to become citizens or just getting to know information, asking what they need to do to become citizens,” she said. 

Still, Vazquez said, some are cautious about taking the class, and she said many times, this is due to a lack of daycare for children. She said, however, there are options for those people.

“I know there have been a lot of students who ask me if I could tutor them during the day,” she said. “There’s been a lot of interest from a lot of people. There’s a big interest from people looking to get their citizenship.”

Some believe the cautiousness shown by some of the potential students is due to the lack of testing facility near Liberal, but Vazquez said she feels this does not contribute to people not wanting to take the SCCC class.

“I think they can find accommodations,” she said. “I think another big thing is fear. Maybe they’re scared they’re not going to pass the test. I think people sometimes give up on themselves. They haven’t even tried, and they’re already scared to fail.”

Rather, Vazquez said many people were hesitant about signing up because they were scared they would not pass her class.

“I got to talking to them and telling them I’m there to help them to succeed in any way possible, but they were already doubtful of passing before they even gave it a try,” she said.

With her encouragement, Vazquez said many people finally opted to take the class, and they leave with a changed attitude.

“It’s like a 180 from the day they walk into my class to the day they leave,” she said. “They are much more confident and excited.”

The class will take place Tuesdays from Jan. 22 through April 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room A138 in the Hobble Academic Building at SCCC at 1801 N. Kansas Ave. in Liberal. The cost is $100 per person. For more information or to enroll, call 620-417-1170, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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