Project SHINE links college students with older immigrants and refugees seeking to learn English and navigate the complex path to U. S. citizenship. In community centers, temples, churches, senior housing, and classrooms, students tutor elders in English, helping them become more actively engaged in their communities and teaching the U.S. history and civics needed to pass the citizenship exam.
Project SHINE began in 1997 in response to legislation that jeopardized the public benefits of legally immigrated non-citizens. As social safety nets for non-citizens remain tenuous, naturalization for elderly immigrants continue to be an urgent need. Based at the Center for Intergenerational Learning at Temple University in Philadelphia, SHINE is a national program that builds partnerships between community college, universities, and community-based organizations serving immigrant elders. Project Shine started at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2002 and is one of many service learning program offered by the Center for Civic Engagement.
SHINE students serve real community needs. Older immigrants face particular obstacles in their quest for U. S. citizenship. Elder learners may experience difficulties learning English because of changes in memory, vision, hearing and mobility that cannot be accommodated in overcrowded ESL or citizenship classes. Without a basic knowledge of English, immigrant elders experience barriers to full participation as citizens. Intercultural and intergenerational, SHINE brings essential services directly to immigrant communities. SHINE students work with elders one-on-one or in small groups, creating comfortable learning environments and individualized lessons. Bilingual students offer special services, such as translating materials, accompanying elders to INS interviews, and tutoring in their native language.
Both elder learners and college students benefit from this connection. College students gain a greater understanding of their own and other cultures, a deeper appreciation of civics and the meaning of citizenship, and newfound respect for older adults. Limited English-speaking elders welcome the interest and individual attention of their tutors and value the personal relationships they develop with American-born students and young people from their own ethnic communities.
SHINE helps faculty members create links between classroom teaching and relevant field experience. It provides an opportunity to deepen students' theoretical understanding in a broad range of disciplines, including urban studies, anthropology, English, TESOL, sociology, public policy and history. Students gain knowledge or diverse cultures and life experiences, develop skills beyond the textbook, and find a powerful way to reinforce their academic studies.