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Obama Recognizes Philadelphia Program Helping Immigrants Assimilate

(Patience Lehrman with Citizen's Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor. Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Patience Lehrman with Citizen’s Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – President Obama spotlighted a Temple University program that helps older immigrants adapt to their new culture, last week, when he awarded the Citizen’s Medal to its Director.

Project SHINE teaches English and citizenship. Byak Lien Tong struggled to understand the conditional tense, at an English class in South Philadelphia, last week. Byak – a refugee from Burma – has been here just three weeks but he’s wasting no time pursuing his dream.

“If possible I want to continue my studies, especially law school,” said Tong.

Byak is one of thousands of refugees that Project SHINE has helped, using Temple students to provide not just English lessons but connections to the community. It’s a mission that director Patience Lehrman, herself an immigrant from Cameroon, is passionate about.

“So many of us coming with nothing but hope and faith in their hearts that America is a place where if they work hard and put their talents to the test, they can earn a better life.”

Lehrman says she is honored to be recognized with the citizen’s medal– the nation’s highest civilian honor– but her true reward is the success of immigrants like Byak.

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