SOLANA BEACH, Calif. — Becoming a naturalized citizen is a painstaking task, taking a lot of studying and preparation. North County nonprofit Pathways to Citizenship helps permanent residents do it, and their latest success story is someone you might've already met.
CBS 8 introduced you to Guillermina Martinez Navarrete in October, as she studied to take the U.S. citizenship exam. She now is a full-fledged citizen.
"I'm just so proud of her and that just shows the kind of person she is," said Julia Fox, Educational Program Manager for Pathways to Citizenship and one of Guillermina's teachers.
Executive Director Sonya Williams also gushed with pride, as she talked about Guillermina's process and success.
"All the long hours, and the complicated legal work, and all the painstaking English preparation that Julia helps with is all worth it when you see that smile," she said.
The average noncitizen spends about seven years on the road to naturalization, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services agency; starting out as a foreign national, then spending five years as a lawful permanent resident, and then finally citizenship. The agency says 855,000 people completed the process for citizenship in 2021.
It's been decades in the making for Guillermina, as she adds to 2022's tally.
"She's worked so hard and her dedication to not just becoming a U.S. citizen but in life has always been very inspirational," Guillermina's daughter, Noemi, said. "People ask, 'who do you look up to,' and it's always been ama."
In October, Guillermina said she loves the United States, her teachers, and everyone. That proved to be the driving force pushing her to pass with flying colors.
"In my head, how you put it, everything is open, everything is a lot different," she said. "I see different."
Guillermina says she now wants to become a volunteer teacher with Pathways to Citizenship, to help others study and pass the naturalization process.
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