Community Development Block Grant
Success Stories

Westminster, CA - Mayor Frank G. Fry

Project S.H.U.E.

Westminster officials acknowledge that, while programs in which older adults work with children are not unique - many communities have senior citizens who work in the schools, read books aloud for children in libraries, or teach Sunday school classes - their Project S.H.U.E. (Safety, Health, Understanding and Education) is unique in that it functions as a laboratory in which seniors can be given teaching skills. With the help of CDBG funding, the goal is for trained seniors to serve as teachers' aides in the City's public and private schools - with benefits accruing to them and to the students they help.

Each school day for the past six years, 55 children, six to nine years of age, have come to the Senior Center for help with homework, language skills and nurturing. These students - at-risk Vietnamese and Hispanic children with limited English-speaking skills - live in a nearby low-income apartment area. Because of their special needs, they are recommended for S.H.U.E. by their public school teachers. At the Center, their reading skills are developed through the use of flash cards, phonics, computer games, and by reading aloud to an adult. The public school teachers involved report that after just a few weeks in S.H.U.E., the children's progress improved dramatically.

Every student is required to speak English while in S.H.U.E.; this is aided by the Vietnamese and Hispanic elders who are placed in the school classrooms, helping with translations and with simple English and reading skills. When the students' parents are available, they are required to work as volunteers in the program. In this way, they are exposed to the same basic instruction received by their children - to the benefit of the family as a whole. Here again, teachers in the participating schools report that, through S.H.U.E., children develop cooperative habits, self-assurance and politeness, and parents show more self-confidence in dealing with both S.H.U.E. and school staffs. In essence, they say, the American school experience is not as intimidating to them.

Contact: Gerry Gehres, Administrative Assistant, Grants/Housing, (714) 898-3311

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