Charlotte Program Promotes Youth Volunteerism and Community Empowerment

Thao at SEAC Law Corps meeting prepping for a citizenship fair in 2015 Community empowerment is the main tenant at the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. SEAC, a New Americans Campaign partner, was founded in 2011 and creates a voice for the rapidly growing Asian American community in North Carolina, particularly those from the 11 countries that make up Southeast Asia.

SEAC employs a diverse youth volunteer corps to empower this portion of the local Southeast Asian population and to amplify its work with immigrants eligible to become U.S. citizens.

One youth program is the SEAC Law Corps, which is a grassroots mobilization effort where youth help their communities by planning citizenship fairs. Participants are under the age of 18 and are tasked with planning and coordinating these events, as well as mobilizing volunteers and clients to attend.

Thao (right) helping out at a citizenship fair that merged nail salon health information in 2014

Thao helping out at a citizenship fair that merged nail salon health information in 2014

18-year-old Thao Nguyen is one of 4 volunteers involved in the program. She’s intimately familiar with the naturalization process because her entire family recently applied for citizenship. But, it was her volunteerism with SEAC that really helped them start the process.

“I wanted to get more experience in what’s going on in my community,” says Thao. “It feels great to help other become citizens because while I can gain experience for myself, I can also help out other people.”

Thao was born in Vietnam in 1997. The SEAC volunteer program has helped her further develop her English language skills in reading comprehension, speaking and translation after she and her family arrived in the U.S. in 2008.

“I can be confident about myself while I help other people, and I feel good about that,” says Thao.

Thao’s family was able to navigate the naturalization process with greater ease with her help and experience with the N-400 citizenship application.

“It’s important to become a U.S. citizen because you have more opportunities than green card holders,” Thao says. “Also, when people get older, they’re able to get more benefits when then retire.”

Thao (second from left) with friends and family that she recruited to volunteer at a citizenship fair in 2015

Thao (second from left) with friends and family that she recruited to volunteer at a citizenship fair in 2015

Thao is a future Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and anxiously awaits word on her citizenship application.

As she embarks on her next journey to college, Thao’s already learned valuable life lessons through SEAC.

“I learned that there’s a lot of people out there that need help,” she says. “If you can do something for people when they need help, there’s no reason to sit around.”

Posted on July 6, 2016

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More