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The TemPALS Experience

After a teaching career in Japan that lasted 26 years, Mieko Kaneko was looking for a way to enrich her life and learn about a new culture. Halfway around the world, Len Mellman was the chair of the Temple University Alumni Association’s Community Service Committee and was looking for a way to give back.

Kaneko’s daughter encouraged her to explore a program offered at Temple University, Japan Campus, and she enrolled in the general studies program. As Mieko neared the end of her bachelor’s program, she had one comparative religion class remaining. She was immediately drawn to the “Religion in Philadelphia” course at Temple’s Main Campus.

Meanwhile, Mellman was helping to form TemPALS, a program designed to match Temple alumni age 50 and older with incoming international students during their first semester. The program is designed to help new international students to adjust academically, culturally and socially to the Philadelphia area and to Temple University. TemPALS offer assistance in a number of ways, ranging from English practice to tours of campus and the city. To make a good match, the TemPALS committee examines volunteer alumni profiles, comparing them with those of the incoming international students, and then tries to link those with common interests or experiences.

During his days in the Army, Mellman had served in Japan during the U.S. occupation, and he was excited when he learned that his TemPAL match would be an adult student from Japan. “I so enjoyed my time there,” he said. “The people treated me so well.”

From their first outing to the Settlement Music School for a luncheon, the friendship between Mellman and Kaneko was immediate. They went on to visit the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts to see The Irish and How they Got That Way. Picking up on Kaneko’s interest in foreign customs, Mellman extended their afternoon with a meal at a nearby Irish pub, Fado, to discuss Irish culture. Over a series of additional outings, Mellman helped Kaneko to explore religion in Philadelphia by taking her to Gloria Dei Old Swedes Church, Christ Church, First Unitarian Church and the Beth Sholom Synagogue, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Mellman also invited Kaneko to join his family’s Seder dinner.

Kaneko turned each trip into a paper, and each paper earned her an “A.”

“Seeing real things motivated me to study,” she explained. “The direct experience made me understand lectures and textbooks more deeply. I learned about Philadelphia’s ethnic, religious and cultural diversity – which I had never experienced in Japan.”

After three months of friendship and travels within the city, Kaneko invited her TemPAL to be her guest at the university’s Main Campus Commencement in May. Her daughter also attended, traveling from Japan to be a part of the celebration.

“I was very happy at the graduation ceremony,” Kaneko said. “I will never forget that day.”

That day, and the entire TemPALS experience, was meaningful to Mellman as well.

“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “We created a program of value that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.”

While noting that he was proud to have given Kaneko a deeper appreciation of the city and of American culture, he was quick to add, “The volunteers in this program get even more than the people they are helping.”



Save the Date:

Fall Orientation for TemPALS

Aug. 18, 2 PM
Main Campus, 1810 Liacouras Walk, Conference Suite


To learn more about the TemPALS program or to apply to be a TemPAL, visit myowlspace.com/tempals. For additional information, e-mail kathryn.kemery@temple.edu or call 215.204.7521.