Prospective U.S. citizens invited to prep class at Peters Library

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Roy Wang said he understands better than most the difficulties on the road to becoming a U.S. citizen.

High on that list is learning the English language and trying to communicate with an accent.

That is because his parents, Jin Wang and Chunnei Song — who were born in China — spoke about those hardships as he was growing up and they were studying to become citizens.

But if the 16-year-old can help ease the path for others, he feels he is doing his duty.

''I think America is a really great country and the land of opportunity and freedom and viewed as a melting pot,'' the Peters Township High School student said. "I want to help [immigrants] because it also helps the country."

From 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Roy and fellow student Matt Gummersbach will conduct a free class to assist immigrants in preparing for the U.S. citizenship test. It will be held at Peters Township Public Library, 616 E. McMurray Road. Anyone may attend; and, while registration is requested, walk-ins are welcome.The teens will conduct the class under the direction of library director Pier Lee.

It is the third year for the program, spurred by a rise in the number of minorities in Washington County from 2000 to 2010. The number of Asians and Hispanics in Peters has more than doubled, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

''For that reason I thought it would be a good program,'' Mrs. Lee said.

Born in Shanghai, China, she moved with her family in the early 1950s to Hong Kong, where she learned English. In 1961 she entered Vanderbilt University as a graduate student and earned a master's degree in library science. Mrs. Lee became a U.S. citizen in the early 1970s.

''The country has provided me with a lot of opportunities,'' she said. ''As a citizen, I am able to contribute in my limited way to others' experiences, such as helping others through this program.''

In the program, the teens will guide attendees through the citizenship process and discuss requirements, benefits and forms to be completed. And, they will assist those who want to complete the 10-page naturalization application from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security.

Flash cards provided by the immigration department to help with the naturalization test will be used. Sample questions include: Where is the Statue of Liberty?  Why does the flag have 50 stars? Name your U.S. representative and name two national U.S. holidays.

Matt, 16, the son of Todd and Lori Gummersbach, said his involvement is a way to give back to his community.

''It is a responsibility to help others who were not born here and want to be citizens,'' he said. "'Ultimately, it helps the country to have more people contribute.''

To register for the class, email programs@ptlibrary.org or call 724-941-9430.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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