Sense of Community

Our ongoing, 10-part Community Journalism series airs quarterly

From poverty concerns to major policy decisions, this series dives beyond the headlines to provide in-depth coverage of issues facing people and organizations in the Ozarks. KSMU's team of reporters come together to produce 10 stories, four times a year;  see past espisodes of our Sense of Community series here.


In this segment of our Sense of Community series "Becoming American," we hear the story of three-year-old Rainer Swift.  Rainer was an orphan in China before being adopted by his mother, Keely Swift, who owns a coffeeshop in West Plains, Missouri.  As part of his adoption process, Rainer was granted U.S. citizenship upon his arrival in the United States. 

“I don’t actually know anything about his birth family, but Rainer has a very complicated heart,” Keely Swift said.

Na Pham / Used with permission

“I grew up in Vietnam until I was like, 19 years old,” said Na Pham, a new U.S. citizen living in Springfield, Missouri.

Most of her childhood was focused on studying—that was typical, she said, of her young peers.

“We were born, we study a lot, and we try to get in to pass exams to be in colleges,” she said.

Her father was a construction worker—but the work was seasonal, she said. And her mother was a stay-at-home mom and tried several small business ventures out of the house, but the projects didn’t earn much money.

Submitted By John Whitla

“My full name is Christopher John Whitla.  I go by John, but all my processing is with full name, which goes way back to my mom wanting to call me John, but liking Christopher John better.  So forever more, throughout all the Naturalization Process, through the Green Card Process and everything else, it would always be Christopher”, says Canadian born John Whitla, who shares his story of Becoming American, for the KSMU Sense of Community Series.

Submitted by Hilda Lorrando

“You need to do things right if you want to stay in our country”, says Hilda Lorrando.  “It’s a way to show respect and love for the country (where) you are planning to live”, said the recently Naturalized U.S. Citizen.

Hilda Lorrando, along with her American born husband Alan, and their 3 children, lives just outside the SW Springfield City Limits, and in this segment of Becoming American, from the KSMU Sense of Community Series, Hilda Lorrando shares some of the steps she took on the pathway to U.S. Citizenship.

Jessica Balisle / KSMU

For Fayda Pires Bown, the path to America has been unexpected and complicated. It was never her dream to live here.

Bown grew up in the big city of Goiânia, Brazil where she had a difficult childhood. She tells me she had an emotionally and physically abusive mother. By the time Bown was seventeen, she had come to the end of her rope.