James Howard: July 2014
James Howard: Volunteer Corps Member
Q. Tell us about yourself--do either you or a family member have a personal immigration story?
A. "I am the youngest of five children who was raised in a single parent household. I am originally from Guyana. I immigrated to the United States in 2001. My eldest brother and sister were born in the United States, but my two other siblings were also born in Guyana."
Q. How many times have you volunteered at our events? And what makes you keep coming back?
A. "I began volunteering in February 2013 and have volunteered several times since. I have also volunteered for the Call-in event in 2013 and 2014. I keep volunteering with this organization because I see the positive impact volunteers have on participants’ lives on their journey to become U.S. citizens. In 2007 I became a U.S. citizen, so I know first-hand how challenging and frustrating the naturalization process can be. My reward for volunteering is that I know my work is impactful. I am committed to helping others and this opportunity provides me a medium to help my fellow New Yorkers attain their citizenship."
Q. What’s one of your most memorable moments as a volunteer with Citizenship Now? And why?
A. "I assisted a participant who was a legal permanent resident since the 1960s. That was the first time I saw and held a green “green card.” I was surprised to see the green card did not have an expiration date and it was still valid. I was also amazed at the simple appearance of the green card when compared to the current “green card” issued today."
Q. What does community mean for you?
A. "Community is a place where you and other members have something in common, a shared interest. Community is a place where you are known and actively participate in to improve your life and the lives of others."
Q. In what way(s) has volunteering with Citizenship Now! impacted you personally?
A. "I have always wanted to learn a second language and volunteering with CUNY Citizenship Now! has motivated me to learn Spanish."
Q. What is your favorite borough to volunteer at?
A. "Queens is the borough I have lived in since I immigrated to the United States, so I am naturally biased. Also, volunteering in Queens allows me to travel to the event site quickly with limited train service disruptions."
Q. What are you looking forward to at the next event?
A. "I look forward to traveling to a neighborhood in New York City that I have never visited before to attend an event. I enjoy interacting with my fellow volunteers and CUNY Citizenship Now! staff and look forward to assisting additional participants with their citizenship applications."
Q. Why do you volunteer with the NYC/CUNY Citizenship Now! Volunteer Corps?
A. "I volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now! because of its stellar reputation and its commitment to providing free services to immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. Additionally, volunteering with CUNY Citizenship Now! allows me to give back to my community each time I attend one of their application assistance events."
Q. Has your knowledge of immigration law improved because of the time you have spent volunteering with us? What have you learned?
A. "Yes. I have attended training sessions for screening, checkout, fee waiver and the call-in, which have enhanced my knowledge of Immigration Law. I certainly did not know that some subway tickets issued by an MTA police could be an issue for someone applying for citizenship. I also learned what the criteria are to qualify for a fee waiver when applying for citizenship. I wish I knew about the fee waiver when I applied for my citizenship in 2007 when I attended law school. I would’ve had an extra $595 in the bank today."
Q. What do you enjoy most at our events?
A. "I enjoy meeting the participants at our events and hearing their immigrant stories about why they moved to the United States. I also enjoy learning about the various cultures of the participants who attend our events. New York is so ethnically diverse that I have met many people from around the world."
Q. What is your favorite section of the volunteer newsletter “Citizenship Now! Monthly” and/or volunteer website?
A. "I read the entire newsletter every month, but I particularly enjoy reading the profiles of the volunteer of the month."
Q. Outside of work and volunteering, tell us about some special hobbies or interests that you have?
A. "I read the New York Times, The Economist and Time magazine to be up-to-date with national and international news. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, so I frequent the gym to stay in shape. I also enjoy traveling, lawn tennis and kayaking in Rhone Island with my brother-in-law. I watch a lot of documentaries and I follow politics very closely."