September 27 has marked a very special milestone in Venus Valladarez’s life. After taking a solemn oath at a naturalization ceremony, she became a citizen of the United States of America on that date this year.
Venus was raised in Monterrey, Mexico. When she left Mexico, she came to Altus in 2001 with her two daughters to join her husband Jose Valladarez, who had come earlier to work here and had become a citizen a long time ago. At that arrival, she didn’t speak any English. For a period of time, she participated in an ESL class at the Altus Adult Education program under the teaching of Ramona Jeffries.
For the past two years, Venus has worked in the Altus Public School System at Will Rogers Elementary as a custodian.
She wanted to learn the latest requirements to becoming a citizen, so she attended in January one of the “Citizenship 101” programs, sponsored by Great Plains Literacy Council and Southern Prairie Library System. She stated that having the USCIS Community Relations Officer Jesus Ramirez, who explained the process in Spanish and English, was understandable and encouraging. Then in April of this year, she came to the Altus Public Library and asked Bi-lingual Facilitator Aleida Burchett about studying for the citizenship test. Mrs. Burchett taught her for a few weeks and then asked volunteer tutor Steve Francis to tutor Mrs. Valladarez once a week over the government, history and civic curriculum.
After a few months of study, Venus made an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. Finally, on July 19, 2013, she passed the test in Oklahoma City at the US Citizenship & Immigration Service office.
This adult learner was one of the fortunate applicants to have the naturalization ceremony scheduled as the opening session of the International Festival in Lawton at the Elmer Thomas Park on Friday, September 27. Prior to the occasion, the Lawton Arts and Humanities Council hosted a reception at the Museum of the Great Plains, next to the park. Venus’s tutors Steve Francis and Aleida Burchett, along with her husband and their four daughters, were able to attend the festivities, where 13 immigrants were sworn in as new citizens.
“I love this country. Even though it costs lots of money, I am so thankful that the United States gives immigrants opportunities to be citizens,” summarized Mrs. Valladarez. At a later time, Mrs. Valladarez was honored at Will Rogers with a surprise reception by Principal Rita Beisel, a former GPLC Board member. Mrs. Beisel made the announcement of the citizenship achievement for Venus and all day long the staff and students congratulated her.