Liberty’s Promise: Helping New Americans Get Involved

Participants in the Silver Spring Liberty's Promise Program pose in front of the Capitol Building after spending the day learning about U.S. history at the American Indian Museum.

     Have you ever felt that this county is too complicated and that you do not understand the way that it works? Have you ever thought that you want to do something for the community you live in? Liberty’s Promise might be for you.
     Liberty’s Promise is a non-profit organization that helps immigrants students become more active in the society. In Liberty’s Promise people get know how the government works in many different ways. During the classes, participants go to different government services such as fire stations, police stations, etc. This program also brings guest speakers to talk about different topics. In the program, you are not going to learn about things only by listening, but also by doing things.
     Robert Ponichtera is a historian who teaches at George Mason University and he is the founder of Liberty’s Promise. This program started a couple of years ago. Robert and a friend of his wanted to create a program to help young people, but they did not decide what kind of people to work with.
     One day Robert read an article about refugees and immigrants that came here for political conflicts in their countries. He decided to help people like them by creating Liberty’s Promise. Liberty’s Promise was created with the purpose of helping young immigrants, ages 15 to 21, get used to the United States and at the same time prepare them to be helpful to others.
     There are three sessions a year, fall, spring and summer. The classes are held twice a week and they are not very long. After the class ends, you have priority to get an internship related to the career you wish to study.
     Sarah Sherhols is the coordinator of the program. She is also an immigrant from Canada and she believes that America’s strength is in its diversity and it is important to show people that and at the same time make, their dreams and goals come true. The program is fun and at the same time you learn. “I think people should join this program because it will help them gain knowledge and skills for the future,” Sarah said.
     The main goal of this is to get young immigrant people to learn more about the community they live in. The program also offers internships that can help you for your future while you learn and enjoy the classes. The people who go to most of the classes have a priority to get an internship. “The more young people get involved and participate in programs like Civics and Citizenship and our internship program the better chance they have of achieving their goals,” Sarah said. The internships will help you to gain experience for the career you will like to choose later. In cities like Silver Spring where more than 35% percent of the population is born in a different country, there are not many immigrant representations in the government. “By getting our young people involved, we’re helping them have a voice and contribute to positive change,” Sarah said.
     In Liberty’s Promise you will find people from different schools, countries and ages that you can became friends with. Hiwot Ayalew is a college student from Ethiopia. She is 20 and she is now part of the program. Hiwot came to this program to make new friends and learn about the place where she lives. She got an internship and learned many things about the United States and the community. “My first internship placement was in a program in the Catholic Community Services which I enjoyed very much,” Hiwot said. Hiwot hopes others take advantage of this program. “I actually told a lot of Ethiopian newcomers [about Liberty’s Promise] because this program makes it easier for young immigrants to fit into the American society and the American lifestyle,” she said.
     Cindy Solis is a senior from Blair who enjoyed participating in the Fall Session of the program. “It helped me realize that I can get involved in my community even though I’m an immigrant,” she said.
The Spring Session will be held from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays beginning in March. For more information contact Sarah Sherhols at 202-340-1744 or <>.

© Copyright Silver International Newspaper, Montgomery Blair H.S. 2007 (This page was created by Adene Bekele )