By Wafai Dias and Francisco Ovalle

Al Dia: A Latino Community Gets Education on Citizenship

Al Dia: A Latino Community Gets Education on Citizenship
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Acción Colombia is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the growth of the Latino community in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. It strives to keep the lively and bold culture of Latinos alive. While the organization places an emphasis on our local Colombian population, it does have programs for the rest of the Latino community.

Students learn U.S. History in their Citizenship class provided by Accion Colombia.

Students learn U.S. history in their citizenship class provided by Accion Colombia.

The goal is to bring light to the issues that the community faces. The organization wants to empower the Colombian community, as well as all other Latinos, by focusing on the arts, culture and civic participation of all their home countries.

Leity Rodriguez, is the executive director of Acción Colombia. As one of the founders of the nonprofit, she strongly believes that they are building a new bridge for the way Latinos y Latinos in the tri-state area look at immigration.

“I think Acción Colombia benefits our community through the programs we have available. Particularly the classes we offer to prepare for the citizenship test. This organization is a way for all members of our community to learn, and have fun at the same time,” said Rodriguez.

The mission of the nonprofit is to reinforce the leadership in the Latino community of Philadelphia in order to engage members on important issues, as well as to show the diversity of their culture.

Facundo Knight taught the students U.S. History in his citizenship class.

Facundo Knight taught the students U.S. history in his citizenship class.

The programs that are offered by the organization, as well as the activities, focus on developing current information and the growth of the Latino community.

The main and most popular program is the citizenship class. The class is offered for those immigrants who hold a green card and are able to apply to be sworn into American citizenship.

Instructor Facundo Knight, an expert in the subject, teaches the class for a period of 10 weeks where the students learn everything from history, to their rights and duties as future citizens of the U.S. They also teach a course on labor law and immigration.

“Becoming a citizen will offer them a better life; A better possibility of getting a good job. They could even go to a university or institution to continue studying their previous careers. For these people and their families, the benefits of becoming a citizen are endless,” said Rodriguez.

Another program Acción Colombia offers is arts and culture. These activities are spread out through the year and focus on educating and entertaining both children and adults. The goal behind the activities the organization hosts is to provide a place where the Latino community can come together and strengthen their culture for everyone to see and enjoy.

Participants in the citizenship class learned about U.S History.

Participants in the citizenship class learned about U.S. history.

They also sponsor tours and other activities that enhance the immigrant’s communities’ knowledge of the city of Philadelphia, as a platform for learning the history and culture of the U.S.

Adriana Mayor, a student at one of Acción Colombia’s programs, shared her opinion on the organization stating, “The programs the organization offers are important because they help you know stuff that you normally wouldn’t. Thanks to them I have more knowledge and know what my rights are!”

The civil engagement programs are other platforms Acción Colombia offers to their members. In collaboration with Newark’s Mobile Colombian Consulate, the nonprofit creates a medium for all Colombian residents in Philadelphia to organize papers or any other documentation.

They help with planning the event, and the logistics behind it. The goal of it is to save Colombians a trip to the Colombian Consulate in New York and a rough transportation cost there of $100 or more.

The nonprofit also organizes a Sweet and Savory Festival. Every December, it invites the entire Latino community to participate in a very traditional ritual. It involves lighting candles to welcome the Christmas spirit with the help of music, crafts, dances and traditional food from all of the different ethnicities in the community.

Lexlys Amador, who is a student at Acción Colombia’s citizenship preparation class, commented on the organization’s diversity. “This organization offers so much knowledge. It’s such a beautiful thing to learn about different cultures and also learn about the U.S.”

Lexlys Amador, learned about U.S history along with her classmates in the citizenship class.

Lexlys Amador learned about U.S. history along with her classmates in the citizenship class.

Acción Colombia’s founding goal is to reassure and give knowledge to the many immigrants who live in the tri-state area. Rodriguez said that the biggest success is to end the struggles and limitations the Latino community lives through everyday.

“This is my passion. I’ve been through it—not having my native language, and not knowing what’s happening around me. I want to help as much as I can,” said Rodriguez.

See a related story at Al Dia: An Immigrant Tells All.

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