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Student Spotlight: Fatoumata Toure

The school year is off to an exciting start for learner Fatoumata Toure, who became an American citizen on October 17.

Fatoumata and her tutor, Derek Foster, have been working on citizenship skills since 2021. Born in Ivory Coast, Fatoumata went to religious school, but didn’t have a formal education. Her biggest challenge on the citizenship exam was writing. Since her last attempt at the test in April, she and Derek have been practicing writing intensively, and working on not overthinking her responses.


“Thank you guys, thank Derek, thank school,” she said. “If it was not for this school, I don’t know how I would get this one,” she said.


“She deserves all the credit because she put the work in,” Derek said. “I know it was difficult for her sometimes.”


Fatoumata is a mother of six children and has lived in the United States since she moved here to join her husband in 1993. She first came to Siena in 2005, but didn’t stay long. She returned a few years ago and met then Executive Director Sister Janice Brown.


“She said, ‘Fatoumata, where have you been all this time?!’ So I came back,” Fatoumata said.

Fatoumata first worked with her current tutor Derek while he was leading an English conversation class, a practice group for English language learners. Most of the students in the class were French speakers, and they would sometimes slip into speaking French. Fatoumata and another student helped Derek keep the class on track. “They would say, ‘Hey, we’re supposed to be speaking English,’” he said.


Now that she has her citizenship, Fatoumata and Derek will continue to work together.


“We want to get her to register to vote!” Derek said. Fatoumata also wants to continue improving her English language skills.


“I want to be able to read everything for myself,” she said.

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