Project SHINE Connects Language Coaches to Immigrant Community


Community members participating in the shine program at City College’s Chinatown Campus receive instruction from a volunteer over the summer. Photo courtesy of Maryann Etlinger/Special to The Guardsman.


   During the age of Donald Trump, immigrants across the United States are threatened with harassment and violence simply for not being fluent in English. City College’s Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) program works to assist returning students in gaining English language skills free of cost by giving them the opportunity to work with in-class language coaches or to become one themselves.

Project SHINE was created to connect volunteers to those in City College’s non-credit ESL and citizenship classes by offering classroom-aide positions. The organization was brought to San Francisco, a city where over a third of all residents are immigrants, 23 years ago and has served the ESL population ever since. 

Student Jiaomai Mai has been coaching with the organization for over seven semesters and believes that SHINE has significantly contributed to her personal growth. “I improved my personality. I became more confident in speaking English, and it helped me realize that if I want to do something, I will do it,” she said.

The program meets the needs of both college students looking for community service hours, and ESL and non-credit students in their personal process of becoming fluent in the English language and passing the citizenship test. 

“I see SHINE as serving different stakeholders at the college and the community. Students who come into our office have many different reasons and motivations to do it, and the outcomes are also different, but there is always this sense of serving or give back feeling. For all cases, there is always this positive growth, ranging from academic, personal, to language skills growth,” said Project SHINE coordinator, Marianne Etlinger. 

Instructors also see the benefit of having a SHINE coach in their classrooms. “Having a SHINE coach in my classroom is like having a third hand. They help me to answer all the students’ questions, and serve as a bridge between me and the students because it is hard to individually attend every need or every doubt of a student in a classroom of 25 students,” said ESL instructor Helen Frazier.

   City College students are encouraged to apply for Project SHINE for the Fall 2019 academic year where they will receive training before entering the classroom. Volunteer coaches must be able to commit to two hours every week on days of their choosing over a ten-week period to receive a certificate of completion.

International Student Davi Luo coached for the first time in Spring 2019, “The reason why I volunteered for SHINE is that I really like to help people, and will also help me to transfer. I will volunteer again next semester because the program is helping me to overcome my shyness and my language skills.”

Students interested in applying for Project SHINE can go to to make an appointment with a coordinator and placement interviews will take place on Sept. 3. 

The Guardsman