Worcester State University
Intergenerational Urban Institute


Program Description

Elder "English language learners" are often the dynamic force behind bringing their families to this country. They face many challenges in this new land and there are few opportunities for them to lean a new language and navigate through their new culture and surroundings. This IUI program offers free conversational English tutoring by younger and elder students at WSU. The students become ambassadors of US culture and receive the benefits of a personal connection with elders from other cultures. English language learners only need a desire to learn, and tutors a desire to “make a difference."  On-going training and support is provided by Program Coordinators and IUI staff.


Meet the Coordinators

A team of traditional and elder students coordinate this on-going program. Combining the life experience and business skills of elder students and volunteers with the energy and hard work of current students has proved to be a winning combination.


      WSU traditional student, Dannielle Morrow

  WSU elder student, Samuel Demma

Who participates?

Albanian, Russian, Vietnamese, Hispanic, Egyptian, and Japanese immigrants join the IUI tutoring program to improve their English, learn more about North American culture and enjoy the camaraderie and intergenerational environment on the WSC campus. Students in service learning courses and volunteers with no ESL credentials become tutors and cultural ambassadors.


Program Partners

Bet Shalom                                       Catherine Cowden


Worcester Housing Authority               L:ynn O'Toole



NuCafe, 355 Chandler St., Worcester


History of the Program

The IUI’s English Language Learner Program grew out of a need for providing conversational English skills for Worcester’s growing elderly immigrant population. As part of service-learning in the course “Aging in Metropolitan Society,” this ESL tutoring program provided opportunities for Worcester State University students to tutor elders in the community wishing to improve their English skills. A grant from the Worcester Executive Office of Elder Affairs provided funding to cover costs of transporting the elders to the college campus. In addition to tutoring on site at the campus, some students participated in tutoring off site at elder housing at Canterbury Towers, Worcester Housing Authority residences and the Worcester Senior Center.


Early on in the development of this program, the IUI received a grant from AGHE (Association for Gerontology in Higher Education). As part of the grant the Director of the IUI was invited to participate in Generations Together workshops at the University of Pittsburgh.  The IUI Elder Immigrant Program was featured in the Compendium “Intergenerational Service-Learning in Gerontology." The program was prominently featured in a film also titled: “Intergenerational Service Learning in Gerontology” (Lucy Jones Video Productions, 2001). The IUI presented a day long conference, “The Journey to Citizenship” with the support of this grant. the English Language Learners has been ongoing up to the present time.


When transportation funding from the WEOEA ended, the IUI began researching other ways to bring elders in the community to the campus.  There were a few elders who could provide their own transportation, but not enough for the program to continue effectively.  After making connections with the Director of Resident Services at Worcester Housing Authority, arrangements were made for the WHA van to provide transportation to bring elders from WHA residences to the campus for tutoring.  In addition, the Resident Coordinator at neighboring Bet Shalom elder apartments contacted the IUI to find out about ELL tutoring for some of her new elder Albanian residents.  The elders were encouraged to participate and were escorted to the campus and became some of the most enthusiastic participants in this highly successful program. Two program coordinators, themselves elder students, facilitated this ongoing program which builds bridges between the generations and cultures and engages traditional age and elder students in tutoring immigrants of all ages in conversational English over the fall and spring semesters.


More recently the IUI partnered with Worcester Housing Authority to provide tutoring to residents at 425 Pleasant St.  The 2008 launch of this successful program flourished under the intergenerational partnership of senior volunteer Lionel Carbonneau and Alicia Suenaert.  In 2012, the coordinators of the program were WSU older student, Samuel Demma and WSU traditional student, Kelsey Hopkins.  This intergenerational team was instrumental in developing a realtionship with elders at the NU Cafe in Worcester and began a weekly session there in addition to the two other sites.  


In 2013, Madeline Otis Campbell of the Urban Studies faculty agreed to oversee the ELL Program and is now faculty coordinator.  Traditional student Dannielle Morrow will participate as student program coordinator.

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Phone: 508-929-8000