On June 30th, several John Jay Students volunteered at the CUNY Citizenship Now! Citizenship Application Assistance & Immigration Resource Fair. We spoke to Karla Galiano Herrera, a third-year student majoring in Sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies, to learn more about her volunteer experience.
What did you do during the event?
My main role was greeting the guests and guiding them to our application assistance area. I also had the opportunity to shadow Laura, an applicant assistant. While she was helping a woman named Carla—she had come all the way from New Jersey for application assistance—I had a wonderful experience getting to learn more about her.
How did it feel participating in the event?
Being a bit shy, I was nervous at first. But the more guests I spoke to, the more at ease I felt. Talking to applicants and hearing their stories really warmed my heart. I even found myself sharing my own story of coming from a mixed-status family, being a Dream US Scholar, and being a first generation student. This helped me connect with these individuals as we prepared them to be screened.
“Filling out 20-page legal documents can become very confusing, especially when there’s a language barrier. Events like these have trained volunteers who are bilingual and understand how to fill out the application.”—Karla Galiano Herrera, John Jay student volunteer
How do events like this benefit immigrant communities?
CUNY Citizenship Now! has been a great help to the immigrant community. Filling out 20-page legal documents can become very confusing, especially when there’s a language barrier. Events like these have trained volunteers who are bilingual and understand how to fill out the application. They also have lawyers who can confirm that everything is done correctly. Naturalization costs $725, and a lot of people can’t afford it. CUNY Citizenship Now! offers waivers to help reduce this cost and make the process easier on immigrants.
Why was it important for you to be involved in this event?
Volunteering is one of the few driving forces for creating change and making a positive impact on one’s community. Many applicants traveled from other states to receive assistance. As a Dream US Scholar, I understand the hardships that come with going through the naturalization process. I wanted to volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now! because they’ve done so much for the immigrant community. I felt that this experience would be a good way for me to do my share, and give back to my community.
“Volunteering is one of the few driving forces for creating change and making a positive impact on one’s community.” –Karla Galiano Herrera, John Jay student volunteer
What advice can you give to future volunteers?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. The people volunteering were so kind and were willing to help me when I needed them. Volunteering is a wonderful experience. Not only can you add it to your resume, but it leaves a warm feeling in your heart. When you see a participant nervously enter the room and leave with a sense of relief, there’s nothing better than that.
To learn more about the CUNY Citizenship Now event, click here.