The Levitt Center began running Project SHINE in the fall of 2004 in partnership with the national Project SHINE organization. Today, Project SHINE works with both refugees and immigrants from ages 18 and above and is run directly through the Levitt Center in collaboration with community partner sites. Students may only participate in Project SHINE through an academic course. The course requirement provides students with an academic framework through which to understand their volunteer experience. It also enables faculty to develop courses that foster ethical, informed, and engaged citizenship.
Student volunteers typically participate in Project SHINE once a week for two hours at a time. They are required to complete at least 12 hours of volunteer time per semester, although we encourage them to volunteer each week throughout the semester. Students work one-on-one or in small groups with young adult and adult learners at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, the Utica Academy of Science Charter School, and Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES. In addition to acting as English coaches, students may help adult learners prepare for citizenship exams. The Levitt Center provides logistical support and transportation for all student volunteers. We also run a mandatory orientation, which includes cultural competency training, tips on teaching multilingual students, and an introduction to Utica and its refugee and immigrant population.
Want more information on SHINE? Contact the SHINE coordinators at Levitt@hamilton.edu.
Course Development Grants
The Levitt Center encourages professors to incorporate SHINE into their courses with three awards of $750 a piece for faculty members who integrate Project SHINE into an existing or new course.
According to the United Nations, refugees are people who have fled their home countries due to war, ethnic or religious conflict, or other problems, and are not able to return for fear of persecution. Refugees who come to Utica are not only seeking a better life, like the many immigrant groups who are evident here today. Their human rights have been violated through war, ethnic cleansing, religious and cultural persecution. They have official refugee status, which means they do not have citizenship and are not welcome in their home countries. Many of them had been living in refugee camps, or hiding in the jungle, for months, years, or decades before coming here.
During the past five years, an average of 500 refugees per year have settled in Utica, most of whom have been Karen/Burmese refugees.
Excerpt taken from www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/what-is-a-refugee/