A unique partnership among St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Santa Monica College, and the nonprofit LA Voice is producing a series of citizenship classes held at the church, taught by the college, and promoted by the nonprofit.
The classes, designed to prepare the students for the citizenship examination, began on February 11 and will run throughout the year. They are of a continuing nature, explained LA Voice executive director Jared Rivera. “Depending on a particular student’s circumstances, including English language skills, some students may attend for six weeks and others for six months.”
Last July, St. Anne’s hosted an all-day program to provide information and assistance for non-citizen legal permanent residents in Southern California interested in achieving U.S. citizenship. [Santa Monica Mirror, July 26-August 1, 2007] That program was part of a year-long national effort – ya es hora (“now is the time”)-that resulted in over one million legal permanent residents nationwide applying for citizenship during 2007.
“There was an 86 percent increase in citizenship applications in 2007 over 2006,” said Rivera. “In the Los Angeles area, the increase was 115 percent.”
The classes at St. Anne’s, which have over 25 students so far, include many members of the parish. “The location of the classes makes a huge difference,” noted Rivera, who stressed that familiar surroundings contributed to attendance. “Santa Monica College is to be commended for its flexibility” in teaching the classes at St. Anne’s. “The college is a fantastic partner.”
LA Voice is a part of the PICO National Network, a faith-based network founded by a Jesuit priest in 1972 and headquartered in Oakland, California. (“PICO” is “People Improving Communities through Organizing,” and has no relation to the Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica.)
“The class not only prepares people to take their test to become citizens, but it also introduces them to avenues of civic participation through LA Voice. In other parishes we have seen citizenship students become directly involved in democracy in their local community” such as get-out-the-vote drives or advocating for neighborhood traffic lights, said Rivera.
Classes meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Anne’s, 2017 Colorado Avenue. There is no cost, but one must register in advance with Yanira Rivas at LA Voice, 213.384.3430.