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Summer 02
Campus-Community Connections
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Helping Older Learners SHINE Their Way to Citizenship
By Amanda J. Lepof, Program Associate, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives, AAC&U


 
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION DOES NOT ADDRESS VOTING RIGHTS: 19TH, 24TH, 15TH, 7TH? IMAGINE CONDUCTING AN INTERVIEW WHERE YOU HAVE TO ANSWER 10 OR 15 QUESTIONS LIKE THIS, IN A LANGUAGE THAT IS NOT YOUR FIRST, IN A FORMAT YOU MAY HAVE NEVER HEARD, WITH AN INTERVIEWER WHO MAY NOT WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE ELDERLY, YOUR CONFIDENCE IS LAGGING, YOU ARE AFRAID, AND THAT MORE THAN ANYTHING YOU WANT TO BECOME A UNITED STATES CITIZEN.

Project SHINE--Students Helping In the Naturalization of Elders--created at the Center for Intergenerational Learning at Temple University in Philadelphia, trains students to assist elderly immigrants and refugees in their struggle to become United States citizens. Started at Temple University, Project SHINE has expanded across the United States to eighteen higher education institutions in nine different cities with large immigrant communities. SHINE programs are conducted in Philadelphia, Miami, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, El Paso, Orange County, San Jose, San Francisco, and Hawaii.

A service learning/community service initiative, SHINE pairs college students with older immigrants and refugees who seek to become naturalized citizens. Students often tutor in established civics, citizenship, or English as a Second Language classes at community colleges, community centers, religious centers, or senior centers. Each site has some flexibility to tailor project SHINE to fit its community’s specific need. While coaching adult learners to citizenship, college students gain chances to practice burgeoning teaching skills and to learn firsthand about immigrant or refugee experiences.

SHINE campus coordinators play a crucial role by promoting the activity as a service learning option to professors, organizing participants, and providing training to students throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, the campus coordinator generally hosts a reflection and celebration for students. Most students participate in SHINE through political science, history, education, or English classes. Students typically write a reflective paper about their experiences as part of the course requirement.

The Center for Intergenerational Learning at Temple aims to establish opportunities for older adults and younger adults to work together, to strengthen community ties. Older learners are the focus of project SHINE because of special challenges they may face in their quest for U.S. citizenship. In addition to vision, hearing, and memory problems sometimes associated with older learners, some older learners may also have less opportunity to speak English if they live in an immigrant community.

San Francisco and El Paso SHINE
In many cities, institutions collaborate on participation with project SHINE. In San Francisco, City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University work together to assist immigrants in their community. Students from both schools provide tutoring to San Francisco’s diverse immigrant population in existing English as a Second Language classes offered by City College. In the spring of 2002, the collaboration had more than100 students serve as tutors. Nearly all of these students participated in SHINE through a service learning course.

In El Paso, the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College launched the city’s SHINE program during the 2001-2002 academic year. In the spring of 2002, approximately sixty-five students participated as project SHINE coaches for a mostly Spanish-speaking immigrant population. This fall, ninety-five students will participate in project SHINE. One student coach stationed in the Army in El Paso spoke no Spanish but helped two learners who spoke no English to pass their citizenship tests. During the 2001-2002 academic year, students in El Paso helped twenty-two older learners become naturalized United States citizens. In El Paso, students mostly work with Spanish-speaking immigrants and refugees, but project SHINE coordinator Richard Gutierrez is devising ways to reach El Paso’s small but growing Korean community.

Civic-Minded Students
Gail Weinstein, coordinator of the SHINE program at San Francisco State, believes that participating in such projects spurs students to civic engagement: “Once students learn about these issues, they see things in a new way. They know human faces go with policy issues and news stories. Once students participate in a project like SHINE, they want to do it again.” The El Paso SHINE program--only in its second year--already has students on a waiting list for available coaching positions. Students learn about cultural and generational differences and often gain a newfound respect for seniors in their community. They also learn things about their own culture and history that they did not know before.

Project SHINE seems to be an overwhelming success in the nine cities where it currently exists and offers a win-win proposition for all participants.
While older learners receive much-needed assistance along the road to citizenship, students often also learn new things about basic American civil liberties. To take an example from our quiz in the first paragraph: a student might not know that the 7th amendment guarantees the right to trial by jury and has nothing to do with voting rights.

Participating in a service learning project encourages students to remain actively involved in the community and increases student appreciation of cultural difference.

Communication tips

Public opinion research has shown that many Americans think learning on campuses is largely unrelated to life in the real world in general and the business world in particular. Promoting stories on service learning--especially course-based service learning--can help dispel the myth and bring public impressions into sync with realities of campus life today.

Service learning also provides an opportunity to amplify the voices of students, whose views are often absent from public debate about higher education. Recent graduates whose service learning experiences helped shape their career choices and prepare them for employment can be particularly effective spokespersons on these issues, on talk shows, and through letters to the editor and other editorial outreach.

 

Project SHINE at Temple University

 


SHINE campus coordinators play a crucial role by promoting the activity as a service learning option to professors, organizing participants, and providing training to students throughout the semester.



FOR MORE INFORMATION

Project SHINE, Temple University:
http://www.projectshine.org

Center for Intergenerational Learning, Temple University
http://www.temple.edu/CIL/

To test your citizenship skills:
Immigration and Naturalization Service sample test: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/
graphics/exec/natz/
natztest.asp


 


 
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