By Kiyanna Noel
Shine On! is a mentoring program that was created 15 years ago by Public Relations Chairperson Colleen Lemza that has helped more than 9,000 students across the North Country. The mentorship program allows students from SUNY Plattsburgh to teach young girls from 3 – 5 grade about their three pillars: media and marketing literacy, communication skills and character strengths. The program has started recruiting mentors for their conference in the spring semester.
The first pillar of Shine On! is media and marketing literacy that helps young girls understand how social media is targeted to certain audiences and the filtered background of them. Shine On! Chairwoman Taylor Edgar said: “This is helping children understand what they see in the media, whether it’s scrolling through Instagram or TikTok or whatever it may be or looking through a magazine, what they see in that mediator engaging with every day is not real. We also try to teach youth, especially young girls that they are marketed on by businesses. They want these young girls and boys to feel like in order to be cool or worthy of respect, they have to wear these name brand clothing or own an iPhone, not realistic at all.”
The second pillar is communication skills, which teaches the students to be “upstanders rather than bystanders in bullying situations,” Edgar said. The program shows the value behind communicating with one another and with authority. The pandemic made it slightly more difficult to increase communication amongst the students. However, by going to the schools once a week for 40 minutes, it became easier to implement this pillar.
The third pillar is character strengths, which builds an understanding about seven characteristics that students will learn about. These strengths are grit, zest, optimism, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude and curiosity. Edgar explained how having some or all of these traits can bring about success rates more than those who don’t. The traits are shown throughout the program and why it’s important to have them.
This year’s annual overnight conference titled “Break the Mold: Be Brave, Be Bold” is known as the biggest sleepover in Plattsburgh and will be taking place in Memorial Hall March 4 to 5. Shine On! is recruiting 40 mentors and there will be 150 3 – 5 grade girls spending the night. After being interviewed and selected, before the conference, there are two specific days in February. Mentor Training-Child protection training will be held Feb. 5, and mentor bonding and training on the 10 different workshops for the conference will be held Feb. 26. If selected, mentors can either gain volunteer hours, one public relations credit or help for fun.
Due to COVID-19, the Shine On! program has changed. They decided that even though classes were virtual, one way to help keep the program going was to send Shine On! In-A-Box, which includes nine lesson plans, videos and instructions for how teachers can still implement the program in their virtual classrooms.
“It also exposes you to the real world and what having a real job and dealing with real children is this is a good opportunity to see if you really like kids or not.”
To learn more about how to apply for a mentor position, email Lemza at email@example.com or Education Outreach Coordinator Kristen Kavanagh firstname.lastname@example.org.