Arizona Republic
August 16, 2006

 Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) August 16, 2006
Author: Dianna M. Nez, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2

Library assistant Yolanda Buttons knows how tough it can be for immigrants to prepare for the U.S. citizenship test. She spent hours helping her parents, Esperanza and Rogelio Pedroza, master the American history and government facts required to pass the exam.

"I had to basically offer them the class myself," Buttons said. "I had to help them, (but) they passed."

Watching her parents' efforts to become American citizens gives Buttons a special appreciation for the new citizenship test-preparation course her employer, El Mirage Branch Library, will begin offering in September.

"It's definitely a way for them (immigrants) to progress, look out for the future of their families and have a more stable life," Buttons said.

Buttons, whose parents have lived in El Mirage for 25 years, sees the course as a way to assist the Northwest Valley immigrant community with educational resources that eluded her migrant farm-working family.

"My parents were immigrants," Buttons said. "We traveled all over the U.S.
to do seasonal farm work. Along the way, I met many people that were documented and undocumented, trying to make ends meet. It's not easy, so I will go out of my way to get them resources (for a better life)."

El Mirage library manager Gail Ellis said the idea for the course came from a young college student who visited the library in June looking for a way to volunteer his services.

Ellis said Arizona State University graduate student Alberto De La Cruz first taught an English-as-a-second-language course but was disappointed with low attendance. Ellis suggested citizenship classes might be more popular.

"We've had people ask us where they could take the classes," Ellis said. "So we thought we'd get a lot more interest."

Ellis said many nearby residents struggle with financial woes that hinder their ability to pay for or attend educational classes.

"It is so needed in this area because people are limited in their transportation," Ellis said. "Most of them don't have automobiles. And the closest (bus service) is at 111th and Grand Avenue."

To meet community needs, the library decided De La Cruz would offer instruction on Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m.

Ellis said advertising is the biggest hurdle the library must overcome to get the many nearby Spanish-speakers to attend the course. Those with English abilities can read the Web site calendar.

They have bilingual fliers posted in the library, and hope to talk to Spanish-language media about promoting the community service, Ellis said.

Buttons said fear is another obstacle the library must contend with if it plans to appeal to an immigrant community that has been on alert since the passage in 2004 of Proposition 200, a statewide ballot measure that restricted certain public benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Buttons said she hopes the library will be able to ease the families'

CAPTION: Citizenship classes at El Mirage Branch Library could lead to celebrations like this one that followed an oath of allegiance taken by new U.S. citizens.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Surprise Republic
Page: 6

Copyright (c) The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: pho147167790