Paquita Ditzler

Bellevue Elementary Preschool teacher Paquita Ditzler (left), who recently received her U.S. Citizenship, interacts with a young student in the Little Stars Preschool.

Paquita Ditzler has lived and worked here in Bellevue for nearly two decades, but she has never voted in an election.

 But that’s not because she didn’t want to, it was because she wasn’t officially a U.S. citizen.

On December 18, however, Ditzler, who was born and raised in Ecuador, officially become a U.S. citizen after passing her naturalization test in Des Moines. During a special ceremony, she and a few dozen others were inducted as U.S. citizens.

Ditlzer, who teaches youngsters in Bellevue Elementary’s Little Stars Preschool program, has actually been living in America since 1978 when she was just 17 years old, graduating from the Iowa Mennonite School near Kalona in 1979.

She would later marry Steve Ditzler, who she actually met in Ecuador when he was serving as a missionary. The couple had three children, and moved to Bellevue 20 years ago. She started working for the Bellevue Elementary School two decades ago this February.

“I’ve been living and working here on a valid Green Card for 40 years – I had the same rights as most people – but the exception was I couldn’t vote. I’ve always had my own opinions on politics and elections, and this time around, I can actually have my voice heard. I plan to caucus, as well as to vote in the 2020 elections.”

Ditzler also noted that being a U.S. citizen will allow her to acquire a passport and travel.

The process of becoming a U.S. citizen is not easy, but rewarding, according to Ditzler. It all started last summer, when she applied and was accepted to take the Naturalization test – but only after being fingerprinted and passing an intensive government background check.

Then she had to study American government, and pass an extensive test, which many who were born here would have trouble passing.

All total, there were 100 questions to study for – and in the final oral examination, the government  randomly picks 10 questions out of those 100. To become an American citizenship, Ditzler has to answer at least 6 out of 10 correctly.

Of course, being a good student and teacher, Ditzler passed with flying colors and was joined by her sisters and three children for the Naturalization ceremony in Des Moines on Dec. 18.

“It was kind of surreal – we were a group of 32 people who became citizens,” said Ditzler. “There were a couple from Dubuque there, and so we sat together. Overall, it was an amazing feeling and a great experience.”

An example of some of the questions Ditzler faced during her examination included the following.

1) What is the Supreme law of the land?

2) What does the constitution do?

3) The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the constitution. What are these words?

4) What is an amendment?

5) What do we call the first ten amendments to the constitution?

6) What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?

7) How many amendments does the constitution have?

8) What did the Declaration of Independence do?

9) What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?

10) What is freedom of religion?

11) What is the economic system in the United States?

12) What is the ‘rule of law’?