Kids Doing Good Stuff: Mission: Citizen

Lincoln High School is known for its strong Constitution team, but this year leaders accomplished something that’s never been done.

They were awarded a nearly $50,000 grant for their Mission Citizen program.

Danny Cohen, a 17-year-old senior, is not even old enough to vote, but he was recognized for his work teaching adults on their path to U.S. citizenship.

“Basically, we teach naturalization classes to immigrants in the Portland area. We teach many hundreds of immigrants a year, and we’re expanding very quickly. One of the key aspects of our organization is that we are run entirely by students,” he said.

Danny and a group of student teachers teach people from many different countries about American history, so they can pass their citizenship test.

“Our goal is to teach all those questions and answers in context of overall history, so it’s easier for our students to remember,” Danny said.

Every teacher in the Mission Citizen program is a graduate of the Lincoln High School Constitution team. And the reason the whole school gathered in the gym on a recent day, was because the program received a massive grant from State Farm Insurance for $49,970.

“To us that was the biggest grant we’d ever seen, and it doubled our annual funding,” said Danny. “And so I said 50,000 would be a tenfold increase (over) anything we’ve ever gotten before, and I thought, no way it’s going to happen.”

But it did happen, and now Mission Citizen has money to help in its teaching tools.

“What it’s going to allow us to do is first of all, implement an iPad-based curriculum. So we’ve purchased a fleet of iPads, from actually the Pioneer Place Apple Store just down the street, and we’re using those to prerecord multilingual-based presentations, so we can appeal to a wider range of immigrants,” Danny said.

The money will also go toward a TriMet ad campaign promoting the program’s classes and increase the scholarship fund to offset the $725 naturalization fee.

Mission Citizen is currently on track to instruct between 300 and 400 students.

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