March 1, 2019
Story and portrait by Brandon Steinert
Ana Cristina Potoret, a native of Germany, recently earned her US Citizenship in the summer of 2018. She’ll tell you how much she loves Fort Leavenworth, the state of Kansas and the United States.
She has visited 38 countries has lived in Hungary, Romania and Germany.
Kansas, she says, is her home. But she wasn’t always so sure.
A decade earlier, on a cool morning at sea, she toiled in her mind over the sudden and drastic changes in her life. She had married a man in the U.S. Army and found herself thousands of miles from home with him by her side on the Queen Mary 2, nervously sipping coffee as the Statue of Liberty came into view. The comfort of her husband’s presence gave her confidence that everything was going to be OK as they entered the harbor, and a new era in her life.
Her experience since that day has been so positive and impactful that she pursued a degree from Barton Community College and is now studying at the University of Kansas with the aim of mastering her command of the German language, one of the four she speaks, so she can work for the Department of Homeland Security to help others gain US Citizenship. She is also minoring in international business.
“I want to help and do the same thing others did for me when I applied for my citizenship,” she said. I know people are nervous when they go through the process and there are people there to make sure you know there’s nothing to be afraid of. There are just a few basic questions. I want to be part of that.”
Potoret said being sworn in as a citizen was one of the most emotional moments of her life.
“There were 180 countries represented and more than 400 people said the oath with me,” she said. “Once I stood up and started saying the oath, I cried. I thought, I know where I belong. I’m going to live here and make my future here. This is where I want to be, and I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Her husband recently retired from the military and they’re planning to settle down in Kansas, which spurred her pursuit of an education and career, starting with an associate degree from Barton Community College.
As a foreigner and a nontraditional student, Potoret said she felt like she had to work three times as hard as her younger classmates.
“I was over 40 and one of the oldest in the class,” she said. “I can’t have grades similar to these 20-year-olds. I had to be better and set an example. I had my dictionary and my thesaurus open in class all the time. I busted my butt. I have all A’s right now.”
She said she learned of Barton through her husband being on post and signed up for classes when she learned they’re on scholarship for members of the military and immediate family members. Once she began her education she realized Barton’s campus at Fort Leavenworth is a very special place.
“The accessibility of the educators, of the instructors, is excellent and I’ve never had that,” she said. “Some teachers would come an hour early to tutor you if you need extra help, and some would stay after as long as you need. They go the extra mile for you, if you show you will do the work.
“That’s priceless and I love every single one of my teachers. If I ever get rich I’m taking them all on a cruise.”
Update on Barton graduate Tye Sanders
Read Tye Sanders’ original story here: bartonccc.edu/news/tye-sanders-feature-fl-18
When Barton student Tye Sanders first started taking classes at Barton, her inspiration came from her daughter and a desire to pursue a degree in criminology, but as she took classes, learned about herself and her option and explored her passions, she made a change.
Having lost 70 pounds after learning the ins and outs of nutrition from a Barton class, she knew that was going to be a major part of how she would help others with her career.
“I didn’t know I would be obsessed with nutrition,” she said. “Now I want to incorporate nutrition programs to help juveniles, because nutrition can teach you how to build great habits and gives you a chance at a better life.”
Her goal is now to finish her degree in business management and start a nonprofit to address food insecurity and nutrition for juveniles with a strong mentorship component.
“(The intimate setting at Barton) helps you know your strengths and they guide you and mentor you, even after graduation; I gained the confidence to know that I am going to continue learning and I’m going to be a success,” she said. “I discovered myself through my education, starting with Barton.”