The citizenship classes at Highland Park High School are a first for both Highland Park High School and the Borough of Highland Park. Held every Monday from 6-8 pm and free for anyone interested, the classes offer participants individual help in a variety of languages that include English, Spanish, Mandarin, French, Russian and Arabic. The classes also provide help with forms, interview simulations, practice tests and general education on the contents of the exam – all focused on the goal of passing the United States citizenship test.
“My favorite part of teaching the citizenship class is to see the smiles on my adult students’ faces as they earn their citizenship and come back to share with the class,” said Adam Gold, social studies teacher at the Highland Park High School. Mr. Gold, who has been involved in teaching citizenship classes since 2015 in partnership with Jewish Family Services (JFS), initiated the classes at Highland Park High School during fall of 2017.
“It is a mutually beneficial relationship,” explained Mr. Gold, who involves student volunteers with multiple language skills as his teaching assistants. Apart from learning how much one needs to know to become a US citizen, the program also enables student volunteers to learn the value of citizenship to each of their lives through the stories of the adults they are serving.
“It is my high school student assistants who actually learn the most from the experience as they get a chance to hone their language skills and come to appreciate the value of citizenship and the importance of civic engagement,” he said.
“The citizenship class allows me get to know and give back to my community in a way that’s very fulfilling and meaningful to me,” said teaching assistant Irene Westfall. With around 100 adult students and 30 teaching assistants, Mr. Gold is encouraged by the program’s positive response and hopes to increase its awareness during the coming months for greater participation and social impact. “Whenever I watch one of my high school students tutoring one of my adult citizenship students, I truly feel like we have the power to build a better world if we do it together.”