Great Plains Literacy Council adult learner Yolanda Moreno, right, received her certificate of naturalization from Federal Judge Squires, center, who was assisted by a member from the Lawton Arts and Humanities Council in the background. Major General Mark McDonald, left, Commanding General from Ft. Sill, was ready to give a handshake of congratulations to her at the ceremony in Lawton on Sept. 28.
A very special milestone in Yolanda Moreno’s life was marked on Sept. 28. After taking a solemn oath at a ceremony, she became a citizen of the United States of America on that date this year.
Yolanda, nicknamed Maggie after her middle name Margarita, was raised in Durango, Mexico. When she came to San Pedro, California in the early 1970s, she didn’t speak any English. That’s when her future father-in-law encouraged her to enroll in English classes. Later she married that man’s son Frank, who worked at a Navy shipyard. Then in 1996, the government offed her husband a job at the Altus Air Force Base working as a mechanic, so to Oklahoma they came.
Moreno took care of the home, and later had various jobs in the Altus community. After her husband’s death due to cancer in 2005, she has become a Hospice volunteer. For three years, Yolanda had worked in the Altus Public School System as a substitute and for the past three years has worked at Rivers Elementary in food service.
This adult learner has an interesting connection to the Great Plains Literacy Council. In 1998-99, she brought a friend to the local literacy council to learn English and attended the tutoring sessions to be an encourager to the friend. Then on October 12, 2010, she came to the Altus Public Library and asked Bi-lingual Facilitator Aleida Burchett about the citizenship process. Mrs. Burchett asked volunteer Steve Francis to tutor Yolanda once a week over the government, history and civic curriculum.
After about 1½ years, Yolanda made an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. Finally, on Aug. 15, 2012, she took and passed the test.
“I practically wore out the CD on the citizenship questions,” exclaimed Yolanda. “I was so nervous and worried about the examination that I listened to the CD all the way to the testing in Oklahoma City. Passing this test was one of my goals for years.”
This adult learner was one of the fortunate applicants to have the naturalization ceremony scheduled as the opening session of the International Festival in Lawton at the Elmer Thomas Park on Friday, Sept. 28. Prior to the occasion, the Lawton Arts and Humanities Council hosted a reception at the Museum of the Great Plains, next to the park. Yolanda’s tutor Steve Francis was able to attend the festivities, where 21 immigrants were sworn in as new citizens.
“Becoming a US citizen is a present I have given myself,” summarized Yolanda. “I feel so relieved and happy to have the rights and responsibilities as a citizen of my adopted country.”