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A Spring Hill College ESL instructor’s journey to U.S. citizenship

When eight-year-old Javier Marroquin’s parents moved him and his sisters to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico, he may not have realized his potential to be a difference-maker or that he would come to love living in America. But now, the senior Management Accounting major understands that what he brings to others is a special opportunity to help change lives.

Marroquin followed his older sister’s footsteps in choosing to attend Spring Hill College. “Moving my senior year of high school from a small Catholic school to a large school made me realize the benefits of going to a small Catholic institution. I visited and fell in love with the campus and, being a Jesuit school, I knew I couldn’t go wrong.”

He began volunteering through the Foley Community Service Center from the moment he stepped on The Hill. “I helped two little Hispanic girls that had recently immigrated to the U.S. by practicing English. I thought I could continue to do what I was doing and become an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.”

In February, Marroquin and both his parents interviewed with U.S. Homeland Security and took tests to become American citizens. All three passed and took the oath of citizenship in Montgomery, Alabama.

“I’ve been honestly surprised at the amount of people that have congratulated me on becoming an American citizen. There is almost a disconnect for me because frankly, there wasn’t anything extraordinary that I did to become a citizen. I am forever grateful for my parents, as they are the ones who have worked tremendously hard and made so many sacrifices to get us here and to make the lives of my sisters and I so incredible. If there is anyone to congratulate, I’d say it’s them.”

As an ESL instructor, Marroquin believes his citizenship experience can help him because many of the ESL students are trying to become U.S. citizens. He says being able to relate and answer questions about the whole process provides a great deal of comfort to anyone who is trying to become a citizen.

“Teaching ESL, you are able to interact with adults that, many times, are a great deal older than you are. I’ve had the privilege to teach a wide range of students from men and women who have never had any form of education to people who were doctors in their home country.”

He says the experience is humbling. “At times, I wondered things like, ‘Who am I to be teaching these people who have so much more life experience than I do?’” Marroquin describes some of Foley Center’s ESL students, saying many work hard with low-paying jobs all day and still find time to attend two-hour classes at the end of the day.

“Their actions are exemplary and motivate me to better myself and to give and pay forward what I’ve been blessed with.”

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