‘This is my country’: Literacy Network helps Peruvian immigrant earn right to vote

MADISON, Wis.— For Sergio Javier Lucero, speaking Spanish is the natural choice, but lately he’s been focusing a lot on his English. With the help of one Madison organization, he has earned the right to participate in the future of a country he’s come to call home.

Lucero arrived in the United States from Peru over 20 years ago. In that time, he has lived a full life, built a family, worked two jobs and paid taxes, but there’s one opportunity he’ll be taking advantage of for the first time next week—the chance to vote.

“This is my country—now my country,” he said. “I want my grandchildren—stay better in the United States, receive more benefits, more opportunities.”

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Lucero said after a push from his family to join them as American citizens, he got involved with the Literacy Network’s free citizenship class in May.

Once enrolled, between his two jobs, Lucero studied every chance he got. By the summer, his dream to become a citizen was a reality. It was a lot of hard work that didn’t go unnoticed by Literacy Network teacher Ruth Robart.

“He was a force for good in class,” Robart said. “He would help other people. He would ask questions that maybe other students, you know, weren’t comfortable asking.”

Robart has been helping immigrants learn to read and write in English for the past twelve years — 90 of her students have become citizens. She said for many of those students, becoming an American comes with a sense of duty.

“I look at my students as really the future of our country,” she said. “They say over and over again when they finally pass their interview and get to go have the oath, ‘This is so good for my family and it’s good for my country.”

It’s the reason Lucero is excited to exercise his right to vote next week and take part in shaping the future of a country he said has provided him with a better life for himself and the people he loves.

“Sometimes people in Peru call me for something, I can do that,” he explained. “I can help them.”

Robart said most students learn about the class through word of mouth or through their English as a Second Language program. She also said the program accepts students at all levels of language skills.

In 2022 alone, the Literacy Network has helped almost 30 students, immigrants and refugees, from all over the world become citizens.