USCIS to Celebrate Independence Day with Naturalization Ceremonies Across the Country

images of citizenship

WASHINGTON— U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will celebrate Independence Day this year by welcoming more than 9,400 new citizens in 170 naturalization ceremonies between June 30 and July 7. These ceremonies demonstrate our commitment to welcoming immigrants. USCIS is proud to welcome people from all over the world as our newest U.S. citizens during this celebration of Independence Day. 

“This year marks the 245th birthday of our Nation,” said Acting USCIS Director Tracy Renaud. “We are committed to promoting policies and procedures that ensure we operate fairly and efficiently, and continue to encourage and embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy.”  

Each July 4, we celebrate the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, declaring that the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation—the United States of America—and were no longer part of the British Empire. USCIS commemorates this momentous occasion by hosting special Independence Day-themed naturalization ceremonies across the country.  

This year’s Independence Day activities will include two special ceremonies. This includes a naturalization ceremony with President Biden at the White House on July 2 and a ceremony with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas administering the Oath of Allegiance virtually to 22 military service members serving overseas, which took place on June 30. Additional ceremonies marking this year’s Independence Day include a ceremony with Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien at the USCIS Atlanta office, ceremonies aboard the USS Constitution Museum in Boston with Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday and the Battleship USS Iowa in Los Angeles, and a special ceremony at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Throughout all these ceremonies, USCIS will honor and recognize the commitment and contributions immigrants make to our Nation, including military members, front-line workers, and COVID-19 heroes who have played a critical role in helping our country respond to and recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic. View a list of highlighted 2021 Independence Day-themed ceremonies.  

USCIS reaffirms its commitment to making the naturalization process accessible to all who are eligible. Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration, we have taken a number of steps to support implementation of Executive Order 14012: Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, including the reinstatement of the 2008 civics test, which took place in February. Reverting to the 2008 civics test was in keeping with other updates with the same purpose.  

Following each naturalization ceremony, we encourage new U.S. citizens to share their naturalization stories and photos on social media using the hashtag #newUScitizen. 

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on TwitterInstagramYouTubeFacebook, and LinkedIn

Read Across Oklahoma 2021

Read Across Oklahoma Returns with a Free Book Giveaway and Online Entertainment and Activities

Read Across Oklahoma, the state’s premiere literary event for preschool and early grade children, returns on Tuesday, April 13 at 9:00 a.m. with a free book giveaway and virtual activities. The first 1,500 children who visit the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden on that day will receive a free book.

Following their Zoo visit, participants can visit the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) website at libraries.ok.gov/read to enjoy a special video of author Tammi Sauer reading the event’s featured book, Wordy Birdy, performances by popular children’s musical group Spaghetti Eddie, additional storytelling, and more. The video also provides a virtual look at the OKC Zoo and some of its animals and habitats.

Read Across Oklahoma is part of the statewide My First Library program coordinated by ODL, an early literacy initiative that helps develop literacy skills and promotes family reading. During a regular school year, the program distributes 1,900 books to early learning classrooms in the Oklahoma City metro area.

“Children who are exposed to books and have books to call their own at an early age develop better vocabularies and are better prepared for school,” according to Leslie Gelders, ODL Literacy Coordinator. “Getting books into the hands of young children is so important, so we were excited to partner with the Zoo to give more books away.”

“The Zoo is thrilled to be part of this year’s virtual Read Across Oklahoma celebration and host a book giveaway, providing guests with new books for their young readers to take home,” said Candice Rennels, OKC Zoo’s director of public relations.

Wordy Birdy, by award-winning Edmond author Tammi Sauer, is an ideal feature book for the event, Gelders said. “Since the character Wordy Birdy is always talking, it’s filled with new vocabulary words. It also imparts a lesson about the importance of listening.”

The virtual side of the event will provide opportunities for children throughout the state to participate, Gelders said. “The video is available directly from ODL’s website, and we also have a variety of exercises including a maze, a coloring page, and learning activities and games related to Wordy Birdy.”

Visit libraries.ok.gov/read to find the virtual activities. Families planning a visit to the Zoo should make their reservations at www.okczoo.org/tickets.

Additional Read Across Oklahoma sponsors include the Krueger Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Pizza Hut, Target, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Teacher Prep Academy, Red Wolves, Metro Technology Center, Feed the Children, and Junior League of Oklahoma City.

For more information about Read Across Oklahoma, contact leslie.gelders@libraries.ok.gov or call 405-522-3242.

Where Do We Go from Here: Race & Literacy in Oklahoma, Part 2

We had a wonderful and enlightening discussion in July. We discussed events in the past and what we can do to move forward. Due to the overwhelming amount of awareness, our next discussion is a continuation of the July conversation. In August, we will continue the discussion of “Where Do We Go from Here: Race and Literacy in Oklahoma, Part 2” on Wednesday, August 19 at 10:00 am-noon. If you weren’t able to join us in July, you are still welcome to join us in August.

Our conversation will be led by Suzette Chang. She will help us to untangle our thoughts and provide tools and recourse as we discuss, “Where do we go from here?”

Registration is closed.

Suzette Chang is the founder and CEO of Thick Descriptions (TD). Thick Descriptions’ mission is to provide awareness, tools, resources, and context of science (natural and social) for kids, tweens/teens, and adults. For more information, please visit their website.


Where Do We Go from Here: Race and Literacy in Oklahoma

2020 will go down in history as a year in which the world was turned upside down. We have been quarantined, told we don’t need a mask, told that we do need a mask, and told to avoid crowds. Businesses have closed, some temporarily and some permanently. People have been laid off or told to work from home. And all the while, racism has been bubbling to the surface.

Join us Wednesday, July 22, at 10:30 am-11:30 am to start breaking down the issues that are surfacing. We will meet in a safe environment to allow for brave questions to be asked. “What makes someone racist?” “What exactly is white privilege?” “Am I guilty?” “I’m just one person, what can I do to help?” “Is that racist or politically correct?” “How does race affect literacy?” “How does cultural intelligence impact how teachers engage with different racial groups?” “Do racial groups do better being taught by the same ethnicities and races?”

Our conversation will be led by Suzette Chang. She will help us to untangle our thoughts and provide tools and recourse as we discuss, “Where do we go from here?”

2020 OLC-TFCU Partnership Grant

This year the grant was for $2,000. The following organizations met all of the qualifications and submitted winning applications. Congratulations!

Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Services
Community Literacy Centers, Inc
Duncan Area Literacy Council
Friends of the Guthrie Public Library
Great Plains Literacy Council
Immigration Center at Western Oaks Church of the Nazarene
NWBC Language Learning Fellowship
OIC of OK County
Oklahoma Christian University: We Speak
Oklahoma City Community College Adult Literacy Center
Rogers County Literacy Council
Stillwater Literacy Council

In these uncertain times, this grant is even more meaningful to these organizations! Thank you, Tinker Federal Credit Union!

Even Helpers Need Help

woman working at home

The nonprofit industry is the third-largest in America. In Oklahoma, nonprofit organizations employ hundreds of people and serve thousands. They provide food for the hungry, safety for the abused, care for our seniors, and shelter for stray pets. They also provide the community with entertainment, art, trails, gyms, libraries, medical centers, parks, emergency services, places of worship, and much more. Without nonprofits, Oklahoma would be a pretty dull place to live.

We support our favorite nonprofits because we care about the issues they’re addressing and believe the work they’re doing is making a difference. We’re fans and we’re loyal. 

Like all businesses, nonprofits in Oklahoma are struggling right now. They’ve had to reduce or cease services and ask staff to remain at home, yet their expenses continue to mount. And some, like those serving seniors, providing hunger relief, or offering mental health services, have seen a substantial spike in demand for their services during the virus crisis.

We must remember, most nonprofits don’t make products or sell services to derive income. They rely wholly, or in part, on donations from people like you and me. Many have little to no reserve funds because supporters often put pressure on them to use all the money they raise to support programming rather than save portions of it (this will surely change).

Money is tight for everyone right now. You may have lost your job, been furloughed, or seen your savings shrink due to a drop on your stock portfolio or 401k. It’s a rough time for everyone.

It’s also a time where it would be easy to look inward and “look out for number one.” But if there was ever a time to look outward and express gratitude to those serving us and our community, this is it. 

Therefore, I urge you to make calls or visit the websites of your favorite nonprofits and make a financial gift. By doing so, you’re helping ensure that their services and staff can stay afloat during this time of crisis and be a better position to thrive during the recovery.

Besides a gift, you can support your nonprofit by offering to make phone calls, donate food, shop for seniors, and say prayers. Even sending a note of appreciation or a gift certificate for take-out meals can warm the hearts of staff and make them smile . . . something we all need more of right now. And when the isolation ban is lifted, you can offer to do chores, run errands, or simply offer to volunteer to help them get back on track. 

If you’re a major donor, let me encourage you to contact your favorite nonprofits and offer to donate emergency funds or provide zero-interest loans. These funds can help pay for staff wages and health insurance, as well as business expenses, program expenses, and utility bills. It might just be the gift a nonprofit needs to free itself from the financial burdens and anxieties it faces.

The nonprofits in Oklahoma are the cornerstones for much of our culture, fun, and service. In these unsettling times, let’s reassure them with a financial gift and a commitment to help and show them our passion for their success and the well-being of their staff is authentic. In doing so, we’ll keep our nonprofits strong and stable and Oklahoma vibrant.

Moving into 2020

Dear Friend,

As I contemplate the end of 2019, I want to thank you for your support. As a coalition, we are only as strong as our members and partners. We could do nothing without you. Because of our partnership with Tinker Federal Credit Union, your membership, and others like you, we were able to improve literacy in Oklahoma.

In 2019, we furnished 106 full scholarships to our annual conference that provided professional development opportunities to 147 teachers, tutors, staff, and adult learners. We held two regional symposiums (in Tulsa and Altus) to provide training for 48 teachers and tutors.

We recognized adult learners at the Literacy Awards sponsored by Tinker Federal Credit Union and Krueger Charitable Foundation. We partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Libraries’ Literacy Resource Office to host a book signing for the adult learners who contributed to Celebrating our Journey, Volume 11. You could see the glow of accomplishment around the learners!

book signing 2019
Adult Learner Authors at the Celebrating Our Journey, Volume 11 book signing.

Thanks to our wonderful partnership with Tinker Federal Credit Union, we were able to financially assist 16 literacy providers. This was used, in part, to:

  • offset naturalization service fees for 39 new citizens,
  • deliver summer ESL and citizenship classes for an average of 100 adult learners each week,
  • supply partial and complete HSE vouchers for 176 people,
  • provide teaching materials for literacy, ESL and HSE classes,
  • present a volunteer appreciation dinner,
  • create professional signage, postcards, and brochures,
  • and so much more!

You are the reason we are able to carry out our mission to support literacy efforts statewide. We would never have been able to help so many Oklahomans without the help of our members.

2020 is going to be a full and amazing year for OLC. We have already begun looking ahead and planning. In addition to our annual conference, we will be adding a third regional workshop.

You can join us in making a difference for Oklahomans in 2020 by going here.

Thank you so much,

Keynote Speaker: Chris Zervas

Chris Zervas

We are pleased to announce that the Keynote Speaker for the 2019 OK Literacy Conference will be Chris Zervas.

“Profound, engaging and fun” are words Chris Zervas’s audiences often use to describe his presentations.

The author of the book, Bomb-Proof Constructive Feedback, his thoughts have also been featured in newspapers, websites, and periodicals such as Entrepreneur.com.

Chris knows the importance of literacy and has worked with Oklahoma Literacy programs in the past.  He received his Master’s Degree in Communication from Wheaton College after graduating from the University of Oklahoma as a student/athlete.  

He has served two college communication faculties, worked in fundraising for over 10 years and has been trained in conflict resolution by the Administrative office of the courts of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. 

Chris is the co-founder of Baby Builders an infant motor-skill activity program and is principal of Summit Solution Group which provides keynote speaking, training and coaching.

From Army National Guard Bureau, US Bank, and ConocoPhillips to small family owned businesses, Chris helps to improve communication processes, leadership and results.

Chris is a Cherokee Citizen and lives in Oklahoma with his wife and five children.

If you have never heard Chris speak, you will want to attend!

OKC ZOO, METROPOLITAN LIBRARY SYSTEM CONTINUE SUCCESSFUL STATEWIDE LITERACY PROGRAM


Oklahoma library program “Read for Adventure” returns for 2019-2020, providing free admission to OKC Zoo

“Read for Adventure” combines literacy, exploration and fun to create the perfect weekend or summer activity for Oklahoma families – at no cost. To join in, visit your local public library to check out the original children’s book, Our Day at the Zoo. Upon returning the book to the library, you will receive a voucher granting up to four guests free admission to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden. The community program was created to promote literacy within families, increase engagement with the outdoors and provide an outlet for invaluable, nature-inspired discoveries. 

After a successful 2017 pilot program with Metropolitan Library System, “Read for Adventure” went statewide last year, reaching all 247 public libraries in Oklahoma and resulting in 4,443 vouchers being redeemed for admission to the OKC Zoo. Since each voucher admits up to four people, that means more than 17,500 Oklahomans visited the Zoo at no cost. “Read for Adventure” redemptions came from 54 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties (70%). In March 2019 alone, more than 7,424 guests came to the Zoo as a result of “Read for Adventure”. If half of the redemptions were for children and half for adults, that would translate to an in-kind valuation of $170,000 for the 2018-2019 term.

 “We know that literacy is fundamental to understanding the world around us and that understanding is the critical first step toward creating positive change for the future,” said Dwight Lawson, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo. “As a conservation organization, the OKC Zoo is dedicated to preserving wildlife and wild places for current and future generations.”

The book at the center of “Read for Adventure”, Our Day at the Zoo, was written by Kristin Williamson and illustrated by Rick George, both Metro Library staff members. Story concepts stemmed from a field trip to the OKC Zoo by Positive Tomorrows, a school for students experiencing homelessness. The children toured the Zoo and talked about the animals they saw and what they were doing. A theme evolved from their conversations: If I were a zoo animal, this is what I would do!

“Read for Adventure” begins today, May 1, 2019, and continues through March 31, 2020. Zoo ticket vouchers are valid through March 31, 2020. To find a public library near you, click here.

Go wild this summer with the “Read for Adventure” program and experience your own day at the Zoo! The Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and by visiting the Zoo’s Blog. To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.

COABE Adult Learner of the Year: Kenneth Ludolph

It is with great pleasure that COABE announces Kenneth Ludolph as the winner of this year’s Adult Learner of the Year Award.

Kenneth Ludolph with Kacie Mach (Tinker Federal Credit Union) and Rebecca Barker (OK Department of Libraries). Photo taken at OLC's 2018 Adult Learner Awards.
Kenneth Ludolp with Kacie Mach (Tinker Federal Credit Union) and Rebecca Barker (OK Department of Libraries). Photo taken at OLC’s 2018 Adult Learner Awards.


In February of 2018, Kenneth Lee Ludolph, Jr. was transferred from the Oklahoma State Reformatory to an Oklahoma City halfway house. On his first Saturday evening, he heard an announcement for the GED® students to go to class. Although he wasn’t yet enrolled, he ran to join the others. Kenneth had been attending a GED® class at his former location and had been disappointed to leave that dream behind when he was transferred. He was excited to learn that he could continue to pursue his goal. It wasn’t long before Kenneth secured a job at a restaurant which required him to work evenings and kept him from attending his new class. Upon learning about the situation and Kenneth’s high entrance scores, the coordinator offered to tutor him during the day. Their tutoring sessions were limited, but Kenneth spent countless hours independently studying. Two months after running to that first class at the halfway house, Kenneth passed his high school equivalency test and achieved his goal.

With the high school equivalency under his belt, new doors of opportunity began to open. Kenneth attended the learning center’s Career Success class where he earned a Certificate of Work Ethic Proficiency. He was honored at the annual OCCC Student Awards ceremony that recognizes the two most outstanding high school equivalency students. Three days after his
release from the halfway house Kenneth began college, majoring in automotive technology. In September, Kenneth was honored again as the 2018 Adult Learner of the Year at the Oklahoma Literacy Coalition Conference. By the end of the fall term, Kenneth had completed 20 college credits with a 3.7 GPA—accomplishing this while working 35 hours per week. Kenneth has always stood out as a leader. After experiencing a four-hour trip home from class after his bike had a flat tire, he carried a spare inner tube and gladly shared the tube with a stranger who was experiencing the same calamity. Another time, he purchased parts and repaired a single mom’s car. Kenneth hopes to have his own shop where he can continue to serve people in need. Kenneth has the kind of humble and teachable spirit that makes a teacher’s job enjoyable. He has proven that perseverance pays off and that faith and hope are available for all who choose to reach out for it. Kenneth chose to leave behind his previous trouble and work toward doing something meaningful with his life. COABE wishes Kenneth all the best as he pursues his dreams!