Patty Swartzbaugh Asked to Speak for the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services Annual Conference

PattyMany may know Patty as Nashville Adult Literacy’s (NALC) Program Manager, managing our citizenship classes, but did you know she also established and leads our Elite Interview Group (EIG) program?

A few years ago, she recognized a need for our English Language Learners (ELL) pursuing citizenship to brush up on a few skills they needed to successfully complete the naturalization process. Many learners knew the information needed to pass the standardized civics part but were breaking under pressure of doing the verbal interview part of the test. To our learners, becoming a citizen is one of the most exciting days in their lives – many compare the oath ceremony after they pass the test to a wedding or other major milestone. Patty knew she needed something that would ease their anxiety and give them the confidence needed to pass the test.

Following a lot of brainstorming with a few volunteer tutors, she established EIG. Through this program, Patty trains volunteers to give mock interviews to learners preparing for their citizenship test. EIG interviewers are trained on the test material as well as interview techniques. After the mock interview, they give feedback and pointers on how the learner can improve. Often, during the process, interviewers become personally invested – some even going the extra mile to tutor the learners one-on-one after the mock interview. They truly want to see the learners improve and pass their test to become a U.S. citizen.

Since its inception five years ago, EIG has helped more than 70 percent of learners taking the test successfully complete the interview process.

Little did Patty know that this program she started to fill a need here in the Nashville community was gaining attention on a national scale along the way. What seemed like out of the blue, Patty got an email from Stephen McHale, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, whose agency provides the funding for the classes. He had been reading about the program, having never seen anything like it, and wanted to hear more about it. Shortly after, he included EIG on their agency’s website as a national best practice. A few months after, Patty received a call from his colleague asking her to present at their annual workshop to help train new grant recipients. They believed EIG could be something other agencies could replicate and would benefit test-takers across the country.

In October, Patty packed her bags for Washington, D.C., and shared the program with 40 new grant recipients. With them, she shared how to implement the program, best practices to make it successful, and the improvements it has made in our own program. We, at NALC, are grateful to Patty for creating such a valuable program for our learners and excited to see the impact this has for agencies similar to ours across the country.

Congratulations, Patty! We are so glad to see all your hard work and your dedication to finding creative ways to improve the lives of our learners being recognized in such an important way. We are honored that your efforts gave NALC national prestige.

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