Six out of ten girls are so concerned with the way they look that they actually refuse to participate in everyday activities such as going swimming and playing sports, visiting the doctor, going to school or even voicing their opinion, according to Dove’s National Beauty Campaign.
Shine On!, created in 2011 by Plattsburgh State Assistant Professor Colleen Lemza, who has witnessed countless women struggle with their self-worth, was designed to prevent that statistic. The mission of Shine On! is to help younger girls become more resilient and better equipped for the pressure society places on them in middle school and beyond.
Every April, the Shine On! committee and mentors, all female PSUC students, put together a 24-hour conference inviting 200 local Plattsburgh girls in grades three through five.
The three main objectives of Shine On! are to build character strengths; media and marketing literacy; and communication skills. During the conference, there are a series of ten workshops, all focusing around those three objectives.
Recent PSUC graduate Tess Galarneau was involved with Shine On! for the past two conferences and said she will never forget last year’s conference, when one of the attendees was afraid to do the rock-climbing wall, one of Shine On!’s most popular activites.
“I remember one girl in a group was a bit nervous, but after some encouragement from her mentor, she climbed the wall even though she was afraid, which is one of the main lessons we try to instill in these girls,” Galarneau said.
Twelve-year-old Theadora Welch attended the Shine On! Conference when she was in fourth grade and once again in fifth grade.
“I had a lot of fun at Shine On!, and it gave me a lot to think about,” Welch said.
According to Dove’s global research, only 4 percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and anxiety about appearance begins at an early age. A workshop that Welch said she enjoyed was about Photoshop use in the media.
This workshop is designed to show the girls that models do not always look the way they do in magazines, and a lot of work goes into making them look the way they do in the pictures.
Shine On! also offered parent workshops last year with each workshop having a different topic to discuss. Some of the workshops included topics of media and marketing, how to raise a gritty girl and social media smarts.
Welch’s mother, Jennifer Giambruno, attended many of the workshops Shine On! had for parents and said she learned from the workshops that taught about the harms of social media and parents should be aware of what their child is doing online. She limits the time Welch spends on her phone, especially at home.
“I really like the message that Shine On! sends to girls her age,” Giambruno said. “I always told Theadora not to be a door mat. I told her to be a nice girl but not a door mat.”
PSUC sophomore Kenzie Cavaluzzo is looking forward to the spring semester and having the chance to be a mentor again.
“The fact that we have a program like this on our campus and in this community is a huge opportunity,” Cavaluzzo said. “It’s an important thing to teach and to learn. We’re really lucky.
“The girls were eager to learn. We as mentors could tell because they asked us and the workshop leaders a lot of questions,” Cavaluzzo said.
Shine On! added a new workshop this past spring focusing on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. According to a report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, 57 percent of girls say that if they were to go into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously.
The STEM workshop gave the girls a more in-depth look at the STEM world and even had them play with Lego robots by using a computer system to control them.
“This workshop sparked a lot of interest in the girls and it was the workshop where they asked the most questions,” Cavaluzzo said.
Female PSUC students interested in being a mentor are encouraged to attend an information session either Sept. 30 from 5-7 p.m. in Yokum 206 or Oct. 1 from 7-9 p.m. in Yokum 208.
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