Shine On! Conference turns spotlight on girls’ confidence

Chyresse Wells, a senior PR major from Ballston Spa, helped with the inaugural program and was back for a second time

“I enjoyed the event-planning aspect as a class, but I especially loved the objective,” Wells said. “Girls at this age are so impressionable. This is a great opportunity for us to give them positive role models to look up to.”

Upon registration, the girls were divided into groups and faced with a set of strangers.

“They were forced to interact with new people and make new friends,” Lemza said. “The whole point was for them to overcome their resistance to being separated from their friends — that they could persevere and become resilient. We had a few tears, but that didn’t last very long.”

At regular intervals, the groups of girls would rotate to different areas such as the magazine station, a T-shirt station where they had to ask others to sign their shirts and a media presentation on body image and self-esteem.

As part of the event-planning coursework, the college students had to work out the logistics of feeding and housing more than 180 girls, moving them from station to station and giving each group time in the Wellness Center pool.

A parental component on the second day brought in 41 mothers and guardians and included workshops on how to talk to daughters about body image, how to provide healthy meals for families on the go, and how to address bullying.

Another aspect of the Shine On! Conference that Lemza appreciated is the fact that it departmental lines within the college.

More than 40 SUNY Plattsburgh students majoring in counseling and teacher education signed on as volunteer counselors for the groups of girls.

“The counselors are all here because they love kids,” Lemza said. “It’s good experience, and it’s great community service, but truth be told, they’re here because they want to be around the girls.”

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