Published in the Martinsburg Journal: KINGWOOD — On Thursday, the West Virginia Adult Education Association honored Susan Fischer of Shepherdstown and Jane Wagner of Charles Town with the 2017 Adult Education Program of the Year Award for their weekly Citizenship Class in Charles Town, which has helped more than 150 local residents achieve the life-changing goal of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Fischer and Wagner, volunteers of the Literacy Volunteers of the Eastern Panhandle, teach the class in cooperation with the Jefferson County Adult Education Program. The award was presented at the WVAEA annual conference at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, West Virginia. More than 234 administrators teachers, and volunteers involved in West Virginia adult education and job training programs attended the four-day conference. The Thursday evening award ceremony honored educators from across the state. Beth Rehberger, JCAE Program lead teacher, described the Citizenship Class as “an open, helpful environment that assists people of all levels to reach their dream of citizenship.”
Fischer and Wagner began developing their Citizenship Class in 2010. The free class at the Jefferson County Adult Learning Center in Charles Town provides English language and civics instruction tailored to help applicants succeed in the interview and tests required for naturalization.
Fischer and Wagner also provide ongoing support to students in managing the forms and other paperwork involved in the lengthy naturalization process.
“Not all immigrants are eligible to apply for citizenship, but many of those who are eligible do not apply,” Wagner said. “For some, the fees, the extensive paperwork, and fear that they will not be able to pass the English language, reading, writing, and civics tests are real obstacles. We assure our students that we will help them work through all of that, and we do. Our success rate is better than 99 percent.”
Asked why she has invested so much time and effort in the classes, Fischer said, “Witnessing our students’ accomplishment, their pride, and their joy at naturalization ceremonies is deeply moving and inspiring.”
Both award recipients are long-time volunteers with LVEP, a nonprofit that trains and supports literacy volunteers serving in Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties. Volunteers tutor adults in literacy, life and job skills, and the academic skills needed to pass the TASC (WV’s high school equivalency diploma exam) and provide English instruction for speakers of other languages. New volunteers are welcome and needed. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the LVEP at 304-264-0298 or firstname.lastname@example.org. New-volunteer orientations are held monthly.