Anush Yenokyan couldn’t sleep the night before she took her oath of allegiance. The next day she would become a U.S. citizen, and, she says, “I was feeling too much emotion.”
Yenokyan, 31, is a table games dealer at Red Rock Resort, a position she reached after starting her hospitality career at sister property Fiesta Rancho in 2011. “In my culture, a casino is a dark, bad place,” says Yenokyan, who moved to Las Vegas from Armenia in 2010. But she says after family members brought her to Red Rock Resort for the first time, she was determined to work there. And it’s with a little help from that employer that she’s now a naturalized citizen.
Since 2004, Station Casinos has offered monthly prep classes (in English and Spanish) to employees eligible for and interested in U.S. naturalization. Students receive flashcards, sample citizenship test questions and a form to request a $680 salary advance that would cover the cost of their citizenship application. Yenokyan filed her application in the spring close to her five-year resident anniversary, the minimum stay for eligibility by law.
“Anything I do, I do with all my heart,” she says. “I’m always happy. I’m always full of energy, even when I’m working from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. [her usual shift at Red Rock]. For me to have fun, to rest, is to be with people.”
Yenokyan channeled that enthusiasm into studying for the citizenship exam. “I learned everything 100 percent,” she says.
In Armenia, Yenokyan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and worked as a French teacher. She used the $20 per week she earned to help her parents and brothers buy necessities. “In any Eastern European country, life is not as easy as here.” she says. “The states provide me with wonderful opportunity, a wonderful life. [As a citizen], I can be part of this country, part of this process. And I can travel … I can invite my parents to visit.”
After being sworn in by the judge, Yenokyan began filing paperwork for her parents and prepared a big package of chocolates and gifts to send to them. “I have everything here that I couldn’t have [in Armenia.] I appreciate that I have so much stuff that I can share with my family. I don’t know how I can say ‘Thank you’ to this country.”
And next? “I’m going to be a homebuyer,” Yenokyan says, with a little help from Station’s first-time homebuyer program.
The next round of Station Casinos’ citizenship prep classes begins on October 15.