For Juan Giarrizzo, the road to a seat in the U.S. Senate runs through Philadelphia, and specifically through the Museum of the American Revolution at Third and Chestnut streets.
That’s because the institution is helping him — a migrant from Venezuela — prepare to take the test for American citizenship, the prime prerequisite for holding elective office.
Giarrizzo, 42, is taking part in a new museum initiative that uses the rich trove of exhibits, artifacts and narratives to prepare legal permanent residents, also known as green-card holders, for the rigorous naturalization exam.
“It makes the learning more permanent,” said Giarrizzo, a Children's Hospital project manager who lives in South Philadelphia. “It gives you a context of emotion, of history. It reminds you that this country is made up of all different people.”
The free, eight-session evening program aims to strengthen immigrants' understanding of the nation's revolution and evolution, a challenge for those who came to the U.S. from all over the world, including China, Vietnam, Russia, South Korea, Uzbekistan, and even England. It arrives as the Trump administration plans to make changes to the test.
The course requires time and study. It would be easier to simply review practice questions on the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that administers the test.
But Giarrizzo and others say they want to better comprehend the events and motivations behind the nation's creation and operation. For them, words like liberty, freedom and equality are not stale, textbook platitudes but real values to be lived.
“We provide the connective tissue,” said educator Dana Devon, who teaches the class with assistance from museum specialists. “These people want to be stakeholders. They want to know more than the three branches of government.”