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Collaborative Citizenship Education

Hartford Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Homa Naficy, Multicultural Services Director, naficy@hplct.org

Problem Statement

Immigrant youth and their parents are becoming increasingly disconnected. This often occurs as children learn English faster than their parents which may interrupt the balance of power; their interests in American culture and adolescent music , films, etc may further alienate parents, just as their parents’ connection to their language and culture may embarrass the adolescent; the parents’ strong cultural respect for elders and familial interdependence, is often challenged by the American value of independence.

Innovation

This Citizenship Education & Integration project harnesses the relationship by having immigrant children serve as interpreters and cultural brokers for their families. While adolescents serving in this role may weaken the balance of power, through collaborative learning around shared goals, this project strengthens the balance of power. Through a partnership with Hartford Public Schools, immigrant students are recruited and trained on the naturalization process and on the effective use of English Language and Citizenship library resources. Upon completion of training they are qualified as volunteer Citizenship Guides and are assigned to assist as Teacher Aids in the Library’s Adult ESL/Citizenship classes and to mentor adults one-on-one on the Libraries e-Learning tools. Throughout the process the youth becomes more sensitized to their parent’s immigrant experiences, while becoming more civic-minded youth with the knowledge needed to successfully and “respectfully” guide their families on the shared path to Citizenship.

Progress

The students have become more interested in applying for Citizenship themselves; both parties have improved their knowledge of U.S. Civics and History and free library educational tools available to them; the students have become informed and appreciative of American ‘core’ values and why their parents are want to become American and the challenges they face on so becoming.