Student Success: Maria Pineda

January 25, 2020

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Student Maria Pineda and Tutor Karen Calhoun


Maria is a hard-working small business owner and mother of three who came from El Salvador with her parents when she was young. Her brother Marcos helped her get started with the Literacy Council two years ago, and I was the lucky tutor who began meeting with her in January 2018. Initially, her goals focused on reading to her children and becoming more involved in their education.

A little over a year ago, Maria asked me about the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. As Maria said, “I want to be a citizen so I can vote in 2020. I also want to be able to take advantage of more opportunities in my new country.”

I was delighted to have the chance to work with Maria on this goal. In addition to the teaching materials kindly supplied by the AACLC, the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided the 100 civics test questions, flashcards, vocabulary lists, and suggested lesson plans.

For more than twelve weeks, Maria and I worked our way through the study materials. By spring 2019, she had completed the series on American government, history, and geography that is covered in the USCIS Civics and English Tests for citizenship. Then came the big challenge: keeping all that knowledge fresh as Maria waited nine more months for her naturalization interview and test at the local USCIS office.
Maria is happy to report that “on January 7, 2020, I passed the USCIS civics and English tests for citizenship. “I was nervous about the interview in the USCIS offices, but my tutor came with me and made me more comfortable. I feel proud and happy that I passed. I know so much more history of the U.S., like who lived here first, why the flag has 50 stars and so many things that help me understand my new country.”

Maria has demonstrated great perseverance, commitment, and courage in pursuing and achieving her goals. We need more citizens just like her! She and I are so grateful for the AACLC and its support for her important accomplishment.

Written by Tutor Karen Calhoun

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