New Americans

ALC staff and students posing for a picture outside a house with balloons and lights

By: Lindy Obach
DALC EL Teacher 

The Dickinson Adult Learning Center is a community of learners who lift each other up.  We celebrate everything here: academic gains, new jobs, new babies.  One major reason to celebrate is that three members of our school have recently become US citizens! 

The citizenship process is not quick nor easy.  These new Americans waited years, filed extensive paperwork, studied English daily, and learned all about US Civics and History in order to be thoroughly vetted and pass the N-400 interview and citizenship test.  

One new citizen is the DALC’s very own EL teacher, Dina Pavlicek.  Dina grew up in the coastal town of Esmeraldas, Ecuador and went to university in her home country to be an English teacher. “They taught me how to be a teacher, but they didn’t teach me English, so I had to learn by myself,” said Dina. Dina spent several years as an English teacher of young adults, people who had less privileges and more hardships than typical students.  

Dina ended up in Dickinson, North Dakota because she met Ryan Pavlicek, a Dickinson native, through an app that connected people who wanted to meet others around the world.  “I wanted to meet people and speak real English with them.” Dina and Ryan started talking more and more, and eventually, they became engaged, and she moved here to start her new life with Ryan.  

“I wanted to become a citizen as soon as I moved here.  To have the rights and to be the same as my husband and if we have a future family.” 

Dina enjoys her life in Dickinson.  “Since I came here, Ryan’s family has always been so nice to me. They have never treated me like an outsider. And then I started teaching at the Adult Learning Center, and I’ve met so many great people here. I have not had any bad experiences with people here. I’m not going  to lie – I miss my country so much, but I feel safe here.” 

Dina’s advice to others who want to start the US citizenship process: “Learn English! You really need to know the language well to be successful.” 

Another new citizen is EL student Cindy Duong.  Many people may already know Cindy as she is one of the most popular and talented nail technicians in town.  Cindy is originally from Vietnam and has lived in Dickinson for 6 years.  She wanted to become a US citizen because, “I love America and freedom.”  

Like Dina, Cindy also finds Dickinson to be a good community for her and her family.  “I like Dickinson because the people here are very friendly. The summer is nice, and there is not a lot of traffic,” says Cindy.  She is an excellent student who works hard in class.  She says of her English classes, “I like to learn English because it helps me communicate with the people at my job.”  

Finally, our most recent citizen is EL student Lucrecia Ochoa, who just passed her interview in February. Lucrecia is a busy mom of five, works full time for Fischer Industries, and attends English class four days a week. Lucrecia is originally from Mexico, and she came to the US for a safer future for her and her children.  

She wanted to become a US citizen because, in her words, “I want to vote and want to help when the country requires my help. I want to participate, and I want to be legal in this country because my children and I live here.” 

Lucrecia also views Dickinson as a positive place to live.  “I really like the education for my children and the job opportunities. I was able to buy my own house.  There is no pollution, and I like nature and the lake.  The city is small, but I feel at home.” 

School has been beneficial to Lucrecia, as she now feels more confident communicating with her children’s teachers, the doctor, and her boss and fellow co-workers. “I have learned a lot and feel very happy that I can be independent and do not need a translator.” 

All three of these women studied citizenship with teachers at the DALC. We congratulate Dina, Cindy, and Lucrecia on achieving this major accomplishment!  

The DALC offers free citizenship classes throughout the school year; for more information, please call 701-456-0008.