Jaime Montes smiles as he describes the feeling of satisfaction he felt as he stood at his naturalization ceremony last year. After 17 years of living as a U.S. resident, Montes became a U.S. citizen in 2013 with the help of a Station Casinos program.
Employees such as Montes are the reason that Valerie Murzl, senior vice president of human resources for Station Casinos, created a “dream survey.” She wanted to learn about employees’ personal dreams and ambitions.
“Our philosophy is that the more you can help people in their life, then the more loyal they become to the corporation,” Murzl said. “If people are happy as a whole, then they do a better job. It’s a win-win situation.”
The survey asks team members what type of personal dreams they have and hope to accomplish. Among some of the choices are to attend adult GED classes, learn English or become a U.S. citizen.
More than 7,000 team members from Station Casinos took the survey, according to Murzl.
The survey found that many of the participants wished to become U.S. citizens. In response, Murzl and her team researched the requirements needed to become a U.S. citizen and created Station Casinos’ citizenship assistance program.
Since creating the program, approximately 200 employees have become U.S. citizens.
“I’ve attended a few naturalization ceremonies in the past, and our team members seem so proud,” Murzl said. “It’s heartwarming.”
The program offers one Spanish and English workshop every month inside a different Station casino. The workshops are available to all employees and focus on preparing participants for the U.S. citizenship test and navigating them through the application process.
As part of the program, participants also receive flash cards with possible interview questions and can sign up for a salary advance form to pay for the $680 U.S. citizen application fee.
Participants who sign up for the form will receive paycheck deductions of $26 through a 12-month period until they have paid off their loan.
Once everything is mailed in, becoming a U.S. citizen takes approximately four months, Murzl said.
In addition, Station brought 140 Rosetta Stone licenses that employees can borrow for six to 12 months to learn to speak English.
Montes has worked at Station Casinos since 1995. He started working as a runner and moved up to becoming a cook in less than a year.
After becoming a citizen, Montes spearheaded the new tacos al pastor station at the Feast Buffet in Texas Station, 2101 Texas Star Lane.
“I came to the United States because I was curious about it,” Montes said. “Now I feel proud that I contributed something to my work that is being valued and appreciated.”
Montes, who is originally from Citala, Jalisco, Mexico, said the recipe has been in his family for more than 100 years. The recipe was originally used to preserve the meat before refrigeration was available.
“The tacos have so many different levels of taste, and they have been received very well by our guests,” said Richard Holland, chef at the Feast Buffet at Texas Station.
Murzl said that the company would continue to care beyond their employees’ work and become a bridge between their employees and their personal goals. She said that she has seen a lot of good come out of the company’s philosophy.
“I feel proud to be an American citizen,” Montes said. “It was a dream of mine that came true. In return, I brought a piece of Mexico here.”
Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at email@example.com or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.