This month’s Ambassadors of the Month feature more of the volunteers with InStepp’s Citizenship program. Launched this year and offered for the second time in August, the Citizenship program is a 12-week class that helps Durham area residents prepare for the citizenship exam that leads to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Among the volunteers who helped teach the class that began in August were Sybil Bowick, Polycarp Omollo, and Jim Rose.
Sybil was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in Wilkes Country, NC. She is a certified paralegal, the proud parent of a daughter, and a cook who loves to scour the Internet for new recipes. Sybil began working with InStepp in August after reading about the Citizenship program and served as a volunteer instructor for the program. She previously volunteered with the Durham County Guardian ad Litem program, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and the annual book bag giveaway held by the Volunteer Center of Durham. Sybil jumped at the chance to be part of the citizenship program and is inspired by the drive and perseverance of the new immigrants she taught in the program.
“It is no small feat to leave one’s birth home and community in search of a better life for your family, yet these women do so with such courage and graciousness,” she says.
Polycarp Omollo is himself an immigrant who grew up in Kenya and has lived in the Triangle area since 2006. He and his wife and three children live in Fuquay Varina, where he serves as a Red Cross volunteer, a volunteer firefighter, and also enjoys a wide range of home improvement projects, from vegetable gardening to building furniture. He holds a master’s degree in education from Meredith College and has 11 years of experience as a public school teacher. He is currently taking a study leave from his teaching duties to pursue a law degree at North Carolina Central University. Polycarp learned about InStepp through an advertisement in LinkedIn and the August Citizenship program was his first experience as an InStepp volunteer.
Polycarp says that working with InStepp “has motivated me to lend a hand whenever I can and has given me the satisfaction of knowing that somebody appreciates me.”
Jim Rose hails from Cortland, NY, and moved to North Carolina 22 years ago. He and his wife, Debbie, have two daughters and three grandchildren. Jim is a researcher at RTI International working on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social science and has taught high school and college courses at Wake Technical Community College. Jim’s past volunteer work includes serving as a hospital trustee, a chamber of commerce member, and a YMCA Service Club member. The Citizenship program was Jim’s first volunteer experience with InStepp; he was attracted to the program because it seemed interesting and because of the many interactions he had with Hispanic students studying for the GED while teaching at Wake Tech. He says that working with the Citizenship program has helped him understand how difficult it is for immigrants who are not native English speakers to prepare for the citizenship test.
Jim’s advice to others thinking of volunteering with InStepp is: “Try it, you’ll like it.”