Heritage Baptist to offer citizenship class

Latino group joins effort

participants must have proper documentation to enroll

August 01, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Heritage Baptist Church will host a citizenship class next week for qualified people who want to become citizens.

Heritage Baptist Church and El Centro de Ayuda (Center for Help), a nonprofit organization that assists Latinos with job placement, education and legal issues, have joined forces for the project.

The organization, on Forest Drive, sees about 4,500 clients a year and has struggled recently with funding.

Yesterday, Mary Schumaker, the organization's founder, placed 700 "robo calls" to clients, in an effort to encourage people to sign up and learn how to become citizens. Participants must have proper documentation.

"We want to implement the first part of their legalization so that they can become more productive citizens," she said. "It's for anyone who wants to come. It's not just for the Latino community."

Classes will be taught in Spanish, but Schumaker said that other instructors with different language skills will be available as needed.

According to 2000 census figures, almost 10 percent of Annapolis' population is foreign-born. And in 12 percent of households, a language other than English is spoken at home.

Almost 7 percent of the population is Hispanic. Those numbers are expected to grow by the time the next census is taken, observers say.

To become a U.S. citizen, immigrants must learn how to read, speak and write English, be familiar with the U.S. Constitution and pass a citizenship test that covers history and governmental procedures.

The trial session will be a dry run for other sessions that could become regular weekly classes, if there is adequate participation.

For the last 15 years, Heritage Baptist Church, pastored by the Rev. Henry Green, has taught English as a Second Language courses with an emphasis on citizenship lessons.

Green said the church is moving toward a comprehensive citizenship and language program.

"We are trying to do our small part," Green said. "We see this as part of our Christian ministry to the larger community."

In September, the church will begin offering homework help and childcare to students who take the English classes.

So far, about a dozen people are signed up for the citizenship class. The maximum class size is 30.

"We know there's a need out there," Green said.nia.henderson@baltsun.com

The class is scheduled for Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. at Heritage Baptist Church, 1740 Forest Drive. For information, call 410-295-3434.

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