On April 28, 2017, student Ines Whittingham became a US Citizen. Her journey began in 2009 when she left her home country, Croatia, and moved to New York City where she worked in a Croatian restaurant with people who became like family to her. Ines did not speak any English but learned by watching TV and going to the New York library. During a trip to the Keys in 2014 to visit a friend, she decided to move to Key West.
Ines wanted to improve her self-taught English skills so she became a student in the Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) program. In January of 2016 she was in a group class when she met two tutors, Jan Malpass and Kathy Zuiderveen. The two women had been through the LVA training program and were looking forward to tutoring so the three of them became a team. While Ines had a good grasp of the language she want to improve what she called her “broken English.”
The team met every week and worked on English grammar. Ines often questioned the rules of the grammar they were studying and sometimes Jan and Kathy were hard pressed to provide answers; so the three of them were learning. Ines expressed her desire to become a US citizen. She was attending a group class at LVA but wanted more individual study time so the team changed their focus to the Naturalization test administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In September 2016 Ines applied for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. She anxiously waited for a response. In January 2017 she was notified her application had been processed and her next step was to take the test. Her next notification was in March; she was scheduled to take the test on April 20. And she passed with flying colors.