Celebration of Citizenship
Rochester Public Schools

Do you know who  the president was during World War I? Or do you know who was considered the “Father of Our Country”? These are just two of the 128 questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Naturalization Test that immigrants may be asked. At RPS, we have the opportunity to help immigrants and refugees become citizens at Hawthorne Education Center.


Hawthorne Education Center, located at 700 4th Ave SE in Rochester, has much to offer for adults in our district. These offerings include basic education, computer literacy, English as a second language, family literacy, GED prep and tests, a path to acquiring an adult diploma, and Citizenship.

To become a U.S. citizen, a person must be at least 18 years old, have been a permanent resident for at least five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen, and speak, read, and write English. Thanks to a federal grant, Hawthorne provides citizenship preparation classes to lawful and permanent residents to help students take the citizenship test and interview.

For Karen Cook, working with immigrants and refugees is a humbling experience. Karen is the Community Education program coordinator for Adult Literacy at Hawthorne and works with adults who speak little to no English to gain independent living skills in the community. This includes helping them learn how to ride public transportation, get connected to services in the community, district, and county, and more.`

“If you’ve ever tried to take this test as a US citizen, you realize how much we take for granted that we are U.S. citizens,” says Karen. “We have students who are studying for this test while also learning English at the same time. It is a huge accomplishment for these students and their families because it doesn’t just benefit them, their kids, and their kids’ kids. Gaining citizenship is a multigenerational achievement that I believe most people take for granted if you are born here in the U.S.”

We are currently in the middle of Rochester’s second annual celebration of Welcoming Week, an initiative through Welcoming America aiming to bring neighbors and community members together, and elevate the voices of different people and cultures and those new to the community in general. This year, Welcoming Week is held from Friday, September 9th through Sunday, the 18th.

This Week will conclude with two events that Hawthorne is involved with: The Citizenship Celebration that is tomorrow, Friday, September 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Olmsted County Government Center. During this time, newly naturalized citizens will be recognized and celebrated. The final event will be the “Rochester Welcomes You” event, which will be held on Saturday, September 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. park. This event is for all new Rochester community members, and there will be games, dancing, music, and free food!

If you or an adult you know is interested in learning more about adult literacy or wants to pursue adult literacy or get an education such as a GED, please visit our Adult Education at Hawthorne webpage or contact Karen Cook for more information.