It’s an age-old story, an immigrant comes to Chicago with nothing more than the commitment to build a new future.
Margot did just that when she flew into Chicago with little else besides her work-visa, her determination, and her dreams of opportunity. An immigrant from Guatemala, today she raises her family in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood. It has been twenty years since she got off that flight – and takes great pride in everything she has achieved for her and her family.
“Now that I’ve spent half of my life here in Chicago, I can say I have found home. I have found the things that make me happy, now is the time I get to be a mom and help my children thrive.”
Today, she can check off one more achievement to her list. This year, Margot became a citizen of the United States of America.
Margot is an English as a Second Language (ESL) student at our Refugee and Immigrant Community Services (RICS) program, where she works with volunteers and full-time educators to gain a better foothold on the confusion of life in a foreign country. After her three children are off to school, Margot comes to the RICS offices to bolster her English and other skills alongside others looking to access resources to help them thrive here.
“The hearts of our volunteers are special. It is not easy trying to learn something new. You can tell these people want you to succeed. It has given me the confidence to learn.”
With new confidence and desire to access opportunity, Margot found herself spending more time at the facility to get CPR certified and attain a food safety license. These successes became quite the motivator, and eventually Margot set her sights on a goal she had held for a very long time. A year into her time at RICS, she decided to take on the goal of achieving U.S. citizenship.
“Even as a Green Card holder, you’re always thinking there could be problems. You’re always living in fear. I was tired of living that way.”
The RICS team helped her navigate the citizenship process, helping her coordinate meetings and file paperwork , as well as helped her study for the U.S. citizenship test. Margot spent a full year learning from text books and classes that aren’t dissimilar from a high school civics course – the stakes are higher, though.
The test takes only 10 minutes – an oral exam with a federal employee. However, for weeks, she anxiously awaited the meeting that would determine the rest of her life. In just a few brief minutes, those nerves melted away with a smile and a handshake from the person on the other side of the desk. She passed and was naturalized two weeks later.
“My children were so happy, and I saw just how proud they were. Now, I can achieve whatever opportunity I want.”
Today, Margot sees opportunity within her own neighborhood. She still spends time with the RICS team, continuing her English courses and providing support to her peers. She is also involved in her school district as a mentor for immigrant parents – working with a support group that helps address the confusions of language barriers and cultural differences.
Just as the RICS program has offered her the space to find the confidence and resources to succeed, Margot has found her American dream in supporting her community as a leader and guide for new immigrants.
“Life is busy – and immigrant parents don’t often have the time or resources to navigate these unfamiliar things. It’s up to us to do that. This is the opportunity of my life.”