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Welcoming New Americans, Easing the Transition

At the YMCA of Metro Denver, we welcome new Americans and work to ensure they have access to YMCA resources for healthy living, youth development, and strengthening community. As part of our New American Welcome Center, we lead several outreach projects, including ones for international family engagement, career opportunities, and summer day camps.

One aspect of this work is partnering with the Littleton Immigration Resource Center (LIRC) to host Naturalization Events at the City of Littleton Council Chambers. In one of the latest ceremonies held October 7, 2019, 39 new Americans took the oath to become US Citizens. The YMCA was there to recognize them for the many steps they took to achieve citizenship and to officially welcome them to the United States.

A long road to a new life

Citizenship in America is difficult to achieve, and these new Americans had to meet several requirements. New citizens must be 18 or older; must have lived in the US for five years continuously; must be able to read, write, and speak English; and must be of good moral character. They must pass a test on US history and government. Further, new citizens must demonstrate their attachment to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution, undergo a background check, and take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

A warm welcome from the Y

Representatives from the YMCA, including President and CEO Sue Glass, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Happiness Officer Bobby King, Debbie Ford, and members of the Y’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Strategies (DIG) Committee Joe Sprague and Dave Ferrill, greeted the new citizens and gave them each a gift bag from the YMCA and FirstBank.

As a guest speaker, Bobby King called on the new Americans to embrace their role as citizens, encouraging everyone to go forward in line with the letters of the word citizen:

Contribute – Contribute your time, talents and treasures to your new country.

Imagine – Imagine what’s possible in making America even greater than it is today. Imagine the best life that you can have as an American.

TakeAction – Be an active citizen, participate, and get involved in your communities. Don’t be passive. Instead, actively participate in causes that are important to you.

Invest – Make an investment as a citizen. Investments generate returns. Again, make the most of your time, talents, and treasures.

Zipcode – Don’tlet your zip code define you. Reach past normal boundaries and historical paradigms. Your neighborhood is the entire country!

Explore – This is a beautiful country, and you live in a beautiful state. Explore it from end to end. Explore it from Pueblo to Fort Collins; take in the parks, ski resorts, mountains, lakes, and entertainment.

New – Remember that America needs new blood, new ideas and new solutions to problems. We need you to bring us fresh perspectives and weave in your unique cultures as we continue to evolve as a nation.

A team effort

The YMCA of Metro Denver was proud to be involved in this event, and we recognize all involved. Glaucia Rabello, LIRC Program Supervisor, was the organizer. Welcoming remarks were made by former Littleton Mayor Susan M. Thornton. Many dignitaries were in attendance, including: 

  • DIG member Julia Guzman
  • Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman
  • Constituent Liaison at U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Jason Crow (CO-6) Kevin Vargas
  • USCIS Section Chief Michael Smith
  • Julia Guzman
  • Michael Smith

Stories of gratitude

Riccardo and Mattian were among the new citizens welcomed. Originally from Italy, they took the oath with their mother, Najat. They, along with their two sisters, came to America in 1997 to seek new opportunities. Becoming citizens made it possible for Najat to be more involved in the lives of her children, who are all attending Colorado universities. Najat said, “Now, my kids and I are all US Citizens and a part of the Littleton community. Sometimes the best things in life come from the experiences you would never expect. I thank God every day -- Look how far we've come.”

Ongoing commitment

The YMCA looks forward to continuing this partnership with the LIRC, which is an award-winning program that helps immigrants connect to community services, learn English, and apply for US citizenship. Additional Y partners are Immigrant Pathways Colorado, a community-supported 501(c)3 organization that helps immigrants make Colorado their home; the City of Littleton; and the Denver office of  US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).