December 05, 2019
citizenship class graduation

Spanish in the Community, a free semester-long course offered to local Spanish speakers and taught by UNT Dallas students who enroll in the course as an elective, graduated 70 participants on Tuesday, Dec. 3, a record number that keeps growing.

The program started as a pilot more than two years ago, and with each new semester, the number of participants eager to take this unique twice-a-week night course surges. It is offered to green card holders, those who are allowed to live and work permanently in the U.S. Thirty-two UNT Dallas students of varying majors take the course to serve as teachers and mentors.

The graduation ceremony was held in Campus Hall inside the Student Center for the first time. 

"We had an incredible night; many lives were touched," said UNT Dallas professor Mara Vaughn, who helped to create the course. "People laughed, people cried, people danced, people prayed. Most of our students and community participants worked all day and gathered at night, regardless of their physical capabilities, to study and invest in their future."

The increasing number of participants shows the need for such a class for Spanish speakers who want to become citizens, but are intimidated when it comes to taking the naturalization test. Working directly with UNT Dallas students in their native language makes the studying process easier and provides the necessary direction and motivation to prepare to take the test.

"I find this to be such a benefit, a thing that you don't find anywhere," UNT Dallas student Yarick Molina told KERA's Bill Zeeble during the course last semester when he served as a teaching assistant. Molina and his mother both took the course previously and both passed the citizenship test. "They're out to fend for themselves without a program like this, and it makes us wonder, how are people are getting ready when there's nothing like this out there?" 

Said Vaughn: "I feel very fortunate to see the development of my students discovering that helping others gives them much more than a grade in my class. After the community courses are over, the relationships students develop with the community stay. Success for both UNT Dallas students and community members is not a question; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy."