GoCitizen Connect wins Rep. Mark Amodei’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Nevada’s Second District

Rep. Mark Amodei has named Tyler Cooper, a 12th Grader, as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Nevada’s Second District.

When asked what inspired the creation of GoCitizen Connect, the student said, ”I grew up hearing stories from my naturalized citizen mother: stories of her own journey as well as her mother’s (my Vovó) from their native Brazil to our country. As I grew older, I became familiar with the true statistics: According to the Urban Institute study, nearly 9 million LPRs living in America today are eligible to become naturalized citizens. Less than 10% of them seek to naturalize. Yet the benefits of citizenship are what drive this minority to achieve it: increased earnings, better employment, and, most importantly, the right to participate in our great democracy. Imagining their hardships, determination, and perseverance, and the joy of finally achieving their dream of citizenship inspired me to use my talents, knowledge, and passion to help other immigrants.

I started GoCitizen from my passion to assist immigrants in learning U.S. History, Government and Civics and prepare for the Naturalization exam and interview. Three years ago, as a 14-year-old high-school student, I began developing the 12-week curriculum to be taught online, accessible to any student. I developed the program online during the pandemic, which was extremely well-received and benefitted many students continuing their citizenship studies. The program was approved and implemented by a local non-profit organization in Northern Nevada, ELL In Home Program, which I partnered with to provide instruction and effectively utilize funds for those who need help paying the citizenship application fee of $725 each.  To date, over 500 students have become U.S. citizens through the partnership.

Yet as I taught the classes, another need became apparent. Students found it hard to prepare for the exam outside of the one day of class provided per week. I decided to create an app to assist them by localizing resources, study tools, and interactive exercises in one, handy platform. I took inspiration from the study habits of some of my students– some liked to listen to pronunciations, so I added audio cues, another found flashcards to be useful, so I created flashcards for every possible question. This app is another step in my goal of helping make citizenship a more attainable goal for immigrants not only in our community, but across the country. ”

The Congressional App Challenge smashed previous participation records in 2022. All told, 9,011 students registered for this year’s competition – creating 2,707 fully-functioning apps for 335 Members of Congress across 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the District of Columbia. This year’s competition set the record for most student registrations, most apps submitted, most apps per district submitted, and most districts receiving over 20 apps. The wildly successful competition continues to impress upon House Members the importance of computer science education and the need to develop a pipeline of diverse, domestic STEM talent.

The Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during our annual #HouseOfCode festival. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, Rise, theCoderSchool, Apple, and others.

The 2023 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2023, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.