“Older immigrants have a strong desire to learn about their new countries and contribute to their communities. They may have difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting due to pace of instruction, isolation or linguistic barriers. SHINE has evolved over the years as it responds to the needs identified by older immigrants. Through SHINE, older immigrants have reported increased confidence in their ability to communicate with health practitioners, increased access to health services and increased civic participation.” - Patience Lehrman, Project SHINE Program Director
From its inception at Temple University’s Intergenerational Center in 1997, Project SHINE (Students Helping In the Naturalization of Elders) has trained college students to work with elderly immigrants and refugees, helping more fully integrate this often overlooked immigrant population into American society.
Project SHINE is now active on 19 campuses and a community nonprofit in nine states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and also partners with immigrant communities and local health/aging networks.
Through Project SHINE, student volunteers are trained to tutor immigrant and refugee seniors in English language and civics education. And in 2009, those services were extended to include volunteers assisting immigrants with health literacy and healthy aging practices. Student tutors provide at least two hours of mentoring weekly per semester, through one-on-one teaching or in small class settings. Nearly 10,000 college students have worked with more than 40,000 elderly immigrants to improve their English proficiency and prepare for their citizenship exams. In 2009, those services were extended to include volunteers assisting immigrants with health literacy and healthy aging practices.
Project SHINE offers an excellent demonstration of two-way integration: An elderly immigrant population that is often isolated and harder to reach is helped, and at the same time student mentors are exposed to the rich cultures and experiences of older migrants, deepening their understanding of the world and the elderly.
For their part, older immigrants have a strong desire to learn English and be part of a larger community, but many have difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting due to the pace of instruction or linguistic barriers coupled with changes in memory, vision, hearing, and mobility. SHINE helps overcome these barriers, by bringing instruction to older immigrants and providing it in a comfortable, familiar setting.
The SHINE model has proven its effectiveness. A study by the American Institutes for Research found that only 46 percent of first-time applicants for citizenship over the age of 65 passed the naturalization exam, compared to the national pass rate of 84 percent. Ninety percent of Project SHINE participants who take the citizenship test pass it.
About Patience Lehrman, Project SHINE Program Director
Patience Lehrman is the Director of Project SHINE, a national service-learning program at the Temple University Intergenerational Center. Project SHINE partners with institutions of higher education and community organizations; all of the programs engage a broad and diverse group of college students and older adults to provide an expansive range of services in immigrant communities.
She joined the Project SHINE team in 2008, after serving as Managing Director of Program Operations at Transitional Work Corporation, the largest urban transitional jobs program in Philadelphia. She has over a decade of experience as a leader in community service, workforce development, and outreach to immigrants, low-income adults, and youths from diverse backgrounds.
An immigrant from Cameroon, West Africa, Mrs. Lehrman holds a dual Master’s degree in Education and Organizational Development from Temple University and is finishing her studies for an Executive MBA at Temple.