Volunteer Stories: Margaret Groesbeck

Margaret Groesbeck
Margaret Groesbeck

For over a decade, Margaret Groesbeck, a retired librarian, has carved out a distinct volunteering niche at Center for New Americans (CNA), focusing on citizenship support. She started as a conversation coach around 2011 but quickly found another impactful role to fill.

“I started tutoring a student who had graduated from the most advanced class [and] wanted experience with conversation. But not long after I started tutoring her and doing conversation, she started the process for applying for citizenship,” says Margaret. “She and I switched our focus to getting her ready for the citizenship interview, which she passed with flying colors. And that sort of kicked off my experience with citizenship coaching.”

Citizenship Coaching: Building Confidence Through Communication

Margaret and Mateso
Margaret with new citizen Mateso

Margaret emphasizes that her goal is to ensure applicants are thoroughly prepared for their citizenship interview. Her approach prepares applicants to navigate the complexities of the application and interview, from understanding advanced English vocabulary to strategically answering questions about U.S. governance.

A significant aspect of her coaching involves enhancing communication skills and providing guidance on nuances of American interview and social etiquette. Margaret also teaches applicants to demonstrate their command of English and avoid simple yes or no answers. For example, “Don’t answer yes or no [to] ‘Did you have any trouble driving here?’ say, ‘No, the drive was very easy,’” she advises. She explains that a fuller response reflects the candidate’s command of English and demonstrates their complete understanding of the question. Margaret also focuses on building confidence and alleviating anxiety associated with the short but high-stakes interview.

The Impact of Volunteering

Volunteering as a citizenship coach has positively impacted Margaret, connecting her to diverse people and perspectives and providing a sense of purpose. “It keeps my world from getting small,” she reflects.

Margaret would love to see more people volunteer, particularly in citizenship coaching. She highlights the satisfaction and pride of helping others navigate their path to citizenship and sharing the joy of students’ accomplishments. Through her dedication, Margaret is making a lasting impact on the lives of her students and the broader community.