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ShineOn! Program Earns National Civic Engagement Award

SUNY Plattsburgh was chosen as one of five colleges and universities nationwide to receive a 2017 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award from The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.

The college’s Center for Community Engagement and its coordinator, Julia Devine, submitted the application on behalf of the ShineOn! program, created by Colleen Lemza, associate professor of public relations, who wanted to shine a light on pre-adolescent girls’ issues of self-esteem and self-worth. 

Heading into its ninth year, ShineOn! is a free overnight workshop for third-through-fifth-grade girls from Clinton County held on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. Some 200 girls are mentored by 45 college women. The girls rotate through a dozen mini-workshops on such topics as media imaging, social media safety and diversity.

Counseling Programs Needed

According to the health department, up to 24 percent of adolescent girls suffer from self-destructive mental health disorders such as eating disorders, self-mutilation and addiction. Economic challenges have led to cuts in school counseling and other resources for prevention programming. With 23 percent of the county’s population below the poverty line, the need for counseling programs is more important than ever.

“On behalf of the entire committee, I'm thrilled ShineOn! has received this award," Lemza said. "This program is a great example of how a college can positively impact its community.  ShineOn! develops strength and confidence in North Country elementary-school girls while college women gain a competitive edge in their careers through experiential learning.  It's a full-circle win-win."

Since its inception, ShineOn! has seen community and corporate support grow to more than $75,000. Nearly 500 college women have provided more than 56,000 hours of service. Twenty-six faculty and staff have provided 10,000 hours of service, and more than 2,000 children and their parents have received mentoring and education through the program.

‘Truly Made a Difference’

“We are proud of this recognition and are grateful to The Washington Center for selecting us," said President John Ettling. "Shine On! is a wonderful example of what can happen when faculty and staff connect students with ways to make a difference in the wider campus community. Colleen and her colleagues have truly made a difference with their efforts. I look forward to attending the award ceremony in October."

The nonprofit Washington Center serves colleges and universities in the United States and other countries by providing students the chance to work and learn in Washington, D.C., for academic credit. The center established the award to celebrate institutions in higher education where the commitment to leadership extends into civic roles in the communities beyond their own campuses. It aims to highlight, in particular, institutions that are forging partnerships beyond campus to define and address issues of public concern whether at the local, regional or international level.

Ettling will accept the award on behalf of the college at an awards luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2. 

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