“LSI makes me feel like I’m home”

When Kiza and her family came to the U.S. from a Tanzanian refugee camp, she knew what she wanted in her future: she wanted to become a U.S. citizen.

After being born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kiza and her family were forced to flee their home country after war broke out, and Kiza spent 10 years growing up in a refugee camp. When her family was able to relocate to the U.S. and connect with friends in Iowa, Kiza worked hard to prepare for her U.S. Citizenship Exam.

But when it came time to take her exam, she felt overwhelmed by the English reading and writing it required. She failed the exam.

Kiza was devastated by the results, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. She needed to try again. She enrolled in classes offered through LSI’s Refugee and Immigrant Services.

Each year, LSI’s programming supports hundreds of former refugee and immigrant community members as they learn English, build a career in their new home, and obtain citizenship by studying for their U.S. Citizenship Exams.

The English classes and citizenship programming Kiza attended at LSI helped her feel more confident as she prepared to take her exam a second time. Outside of the group classes each week, Kiza also received one-on-one tutoring from her LSI teacher, Ron. The two worked together for a month, with Ron providing the support and resources Kiza needed to feel better equipped to earn her U.S. citizenship.

On March 10, Kiza went in to retake her exam. This time, she passed with flying colors. Although her citizenship ceremony has been postponed due to COVID-19 guidelines, Kiza looks forward to the day when she can officially become a U.S. citizen. And she can move forward with pride, knowing she has accomplished her goal and tackled the challenge that was in front of her.

“I was so happy and I was so thankful for LSI,” she says. “They’ve helped me a lot. Ron was the best person. He made me feel comfortable and felt like I am going to do this.”

While our programs are no longer available in LSI’s classrooms due to social distancing precautions, Kiza and the hundreds of other LSI students aren’t stopping there. LSI classes have continued online, so students are still able to participate in virtual lessons until they are able to reunite as a community on LSI’s campus.

“LSI is helpful because they care about people. They care about their students and they are great teachers,” Kiza says. “LSI makes me feel like I’m home. I feel so comfortable and they don’t give up on their students.”

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