The City of Miami Beach: Employee Participant Testimonial

Integration Programs Associate

May 8, 2017

In 1908, Anna Jarvis founded Mother’s day to honor “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” More than 100 years later, this level of sacrifice and perseverance is exemplified by a school crossing guard in a small neighborhood town in Miami, Florida.

Emigrating from Poland to the United States at 3 years old, Barbara Kordos always felt part of the U.S. despite not being a citizen: an American boyfriend, fluent English, and raising three American children. Although Barbara longed for the family unity that U.S. citizenship would guarantee, raising three children made it impossible to gather enough money to pay for the application and attorney fees, so her citizenship application was postponed.

Then tragedy struck.

A month before Barbara was going to marry her boyfriend, the father of her children, he contracted leukemia and died suddenly just before the marriage ceremony. Heart-broken yet motivated, Barbara recognized the heightened importance of gaining U.S. citizenship. Fortunately, just a month later, her employer, The City of Miami Beach, began assisting employees with the naturalization process. Through a partnership with New American Workforce, Barbara and other employees had the opportunity to learn about the citizenship process and receive one-on-one legal assistance from accredited attorneys at the International Rescue Committee, the legal services provider for the program. Barbara also received a huge discount towards her citizenship application, saving her thousands of dollars. Most importantly, these citizenship workshops all occurred at Barbara’s worksite, so she didn’t have to miss work or rearrange her work schedule. After working for The City of Miami Beach for five years, Barbara swore her Oath of Allegiance and finally became a citizen of the United States. She described how she felt that day:

“I felt something, I’m not sure what. It was sort of emotional, it was kind of bitter-sweet. After so many years and grade school, it was just a lot emotions all at once. Sure my husband wasn’t there, but life goes on, and I’m eternally grateful.”

The program had such a positive impact on Barbara that she has since referred many family members, all of whom are now citizens. Her persistence and determination to pursue citizenship in order ensure a stable, secure and unified family for her three children is admirable, and should be celebrated this Mother’s day.