“I can’t wait for Monday.”
A sentiment you don’t hear often. Especially when there’s a test that day.
But not for Mutiatu (moo-TEE-uh), a Neighborhood House participant originally from Nigeria. On Monday, she’s taking arguably one of the most important tests of her life. Not for a grade, not for a credit, but for United States citizenship.
The path to citizenship is a complicated one, beginning with immigration. Read more about the immigration and citizenship process here.
But back to Mutiatu. She was explaining how she’s excited for Monday.
It’s Thursday afternoon and she’s in the last citizenship class before her test—her last chance to practice with the instructor. She’s visibly nervous, wringing her hands together as she’s asked open-ended questions.
Instructor: What ocean is on the west coast?
Mutiatu: The Pacific Ocean.
Instructor: Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
Mutiatu: World War II.
Instructor: Name two cabinet-level positions.
Mutiatu: Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Defense …
It’s a Wimbledon-level game of tennis. The instructor serves questions to Mutiatu who effortlessly volleys her answers back. Her months of preparation is showing.
The reason for her intense studying? “I want to answer their questions clearly,” she says. She explains that she doesn’t want the officer to have to repeat themselves or have to repeat something herself, as it will make her more nervous. She only needs to answer six out of 10 questions correctly, so her goal is to get the first six questions right and not be asked any more.
After a number of these back-and-forths, the instructor pulls out a handheld whiteboard and marker, passing them to Mutiatu. It’s time to practice writing.
The sound of her marker squeaking across the board fills the room. You can hear Mutiatu whispering to herself as she writes.
“Congress … has … 100 … Senators.”
“The … White … House … is … in … Washington … D.C.”
“Adams … was … the … second … president.”
The hour passes quickly and class ends. Mutiatu packs up her books as volunteer instructor Deb walks over. She hugs Mutiatu, wishing her luck and giving her final pieces of advice.
In just a few short days, Mutiatu could earn what she’s been working toward this past year—her United States citizenship and all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. She would be required to defend the country if called upon, support the constitution, and serve on a jury. She would gain the freedom of speech and religion, the right to vote and run for public office, and the freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Learn more about the path to citizenship and how Neighborhood House helps students going through the process.
Read on to see if Mutiatu passes her citizenship test.