Teaching country’s newest citizens

Ben Cook

Ben Cook

Ben Cook is a retired technician who finds immediate self-gratification in volunteering. He teaches citizenship classes at Casa de la Cultura and is named Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for October. For information about Ben or nominating a friend for Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, visit <www.DoingGood.tv>.

“I knew nothing about citizenship, but I do know about teaching,” said Ben, an American citizen by birth. “I love the people and I know how much they put into it (studying for their citizenship exams).”

Ben is one of eight volunteers at Casa de la Cultura Latino Americana, and his role is to teach and tutor students for their citizenship and civic classes. While much of the curriculum is provided via a book and CD complete with answers, he proudly “asks them the questions in eight additional ways” so they won’t be thrown by how the question is asked—whether during the written exam or in the interview. “It (citizenship) can’t be memorized. It must be learned. In fact, most U.S. citizens couldn’t pass the test!”

When asked, Ben humbly says over 90% of his students pass the test! Though not required, he enjoys attending the swearing in ceremony of each graduating student and keeps a picture with each from that special day. Plus, he says, “It is especially fun to teach civics” during a mid-term election year. He uses pictures of mayors from Davidson, Wilson, Rutherford and other counties as well as the president, representatives, senators, and more “because you never know where the student lives.”

Casa de la Cultura Latino Americana is located in the Global Mall in Antioch. The citizenship class is one of many services they provide. Another is educating Spanish-speakers in their native language using the curriculum provided by the Mexican government, the equivalent of the K-12 public school system in the United States. They also offer HiSET (GED) classes, art classes, a location for weddings, a retail center for artists keeping their Latino culture alive, and more.

Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a program produced by Doing Good, a start-up, non-profit organization which celebrates volunteers who make a difference throughout Metro Nashville. For additional information about Ben, Doing Good, or other volunteers, visit <www.DoingGood.tv>.