Every seat was filled in the reading room of the North Bergen Free Public Library for a panel discussion on citizenship on Saturday, March 10. Held as part of the free 15-week citizenship course conducted at both library locations, the event was designed to encourage residents to become citizens, and to answer questions about the citizenship process.
Guest speakers representing different backgrounds and nationalities were Library Director Sai Rao, Commissioner Julio Marenco, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, third grade teacher Imane Doukali, and Hudson County Sheriff’s Officer Mohamed Elnaggar. Each spoke about their personal and family experiences with immigration, and provided advice, support, and congratulations to those residents taking the challenging step to become citizens.
Many of the speakers pointed out the diverse and welcoming nature of North Bergen and how it contributed to the strength and well-being of the community, urging the participants to embrace their new country and traditions while still maintaining their own culture.
The session concluded with a short Q&A, with numerous attendees asking specific questions about the township and about the citizenship exam. One of the attendees, Eduardo Juan Meliton Changa, formerly of Peru, stood and proudly displayed the Certificate of Naturalization he was awarded on Jan. 31 after completing the library course, and expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the library and township for offering the free assistance. Other attendees included former residents of countries across the globe, from South America to Morocco to Sri Lanka, all eager to become U.S. citizens.
The event was funded by the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program, which was awarded to the library by the Department of Homeland Security. The grant aims to help organizations promote prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life by funding educational programs designed to increase their knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics.