Temple students began another semester with Project SHINE – Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders – a program that promotes English comprehension for immigrants in the surrounding communities.
Students said they were eagerly anticipating the start of their first meeting with immigrants who want to be more proficient in the English language. Kassandra Powell, a psychology major, entered the program as part of her Literacy and Society class. She said she hoped that teaching immigrants how to speak, read and write better in English will give back to the community.
“I just want to give back. I know if I give back, I’ll get something from it, too,” Powell said.
Project SHINE acts as a social safety net for immigrant non-citizens. The program specifically deals with the elderly who are at a physical disadvantage when participating in English as a Second Language classes. According to the project’s Web site, loss of hearing, sight and memory make the challenge to learn a new language more difficult than for younger immigrants.
Project SHINE teaches in a personal manner, unlike many of the overcrowded ESL or citizenship classes taught elsewhere, according to the Project SHINE Web site. The Philadelphia Chapter of the program utilizes community centers throughout the city. These centers cater to a wide variety of ethnicities with different languages, such as Puerto Rican, Vietnamese and Dominicans.
The Community Learning Center, located in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, has programs Monday through Thursday that help immigrants learn not only English, but also computer skills and information for the U.S. citizenship test. The classes not only accommodate non-citizens learning English, but people in the area who want to speak better English to help with job opportunities or schooling.
Utilization of images is crucial in teaching a new language, since there are many different languages spoken in one class, according to the field book provided to new students in the program. Pictures and word associations help with simpler words for those who know very little English. A rule of the classroom is people can only speak English to help increase fluency.
Speaking English is one aspect, but what most people come for is help in reading and writing. Carol Miller, the associate director of Project SHINE, said that newspapers are a beneficial tool, since they have abbreviations and advanced level vocabulary not found in grammar books.
Martha Bowditch, a program teacher for three years, said practical usage for reading and writing are taught since all of the people are already a part of English-speaking communities.
The class is predominantly Spanish-speaking, but the ages ranged between 17 and 41. Francisco Nieves, the oldest member of the class, had Temple students in the fall class and said they were very receptive.
“I am reading and writing better. I speak English a lot more,” Nieves said.
He said he decided to join the program to learn to read and write since he already has so much first-hand colloquial training.
Bowditch has had Temple students help her each year since she joined the program. She said they are greatly appreciated, especially in large classes where individual care is hard to have.
“They have been really helpful in my classes where I have many people who don’t know how to read and write,” Bowditch said. “So the tutors provide support that I can’t possibly do while I’m trying to teach everyone else.”
Matthew Pitts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.