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Shine On!’s Fifth Annual Conference Introduces New STEM Workshop

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                FOR MORE INFORMATION:
April 16, 2015                                                      Jennifer Gioia, Shine On! Planning Committee


Shine On!’s Fifth Annual Conference Introduces New STEM Workshop

Shine On! Mentors Kelly Martin and Lisa Scivolette with their group during the 2014 Conference.
Shine On! Mentors Lisa Scivolette and Kelly Martin with their group during the 2014 Conference.

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (April 16, 2015) — Kelly Martin loves coding. Martin, a SUNY Plattsburgh nursing student, takes many computer science courses, where she’s usually the only girl.

Dr. Ken Podolak and Dr. Michael Walters, assistant professors of physics and engineering at SUNY Plattsburgh, have seen a growth in female-to-male ratio in science, technology, engineering and math classrooms.

However, they would like to see further growth.

“STEM needs to be taught, nurtured and workshopped,” Podolak said.

That’s what this year’s Shine On! conference plans to do. The Shine On! Committee will host their fifth annual event that takes place overnight from April 25 to April 26 in Memorial Hall on SUNY Plattsburgh’s campus.

Around 200 third-fifth grade girls will take part in the conference, which strives to equip young girls with the coping skills required to resist the societal pressures they will face in middle school and beyond, leading to more positive behavioral outcomes.

It will feature a series of 10 workshops staying true to Shine On!’s three main themes: communication skills, media/marketing literacy and character strengths.

Martin loved experiencing the “fun transition of her girls from fearful to resilient” as a mentor during Shine On!’s last conference. Her feelings inspired her to lead this year’s new STEM workshop.

The Shine On! Planning Board Committee arranges girls into small groups with college-aged female mentors to support and guide the attendees as they move throughout the conference workshops.

“The girls become so attached they want to sleep next to you at night, and then they don’t want to leave in the morning,” Martin said.

Martin eagerly anticipates her new STEM workshop; “It’s been an idea of mine for a while…and I want the girls to know that STEM can be for them too.”

The STEM workshop, also designed by the SUNY Plattsburgh Physics club and club advisor Dr. Walters, will involve Legos and NXT controllers. The girls will learn how to build and program the robots; learn how to make a sequential order of operations for the robot to perform; and learn what the best way is to program the robot to perform.

“The point is for the girls to understand that the robot is never perfect and to learn to deal with imperfection,” Walters said.

Last year’s conference made Martin become “aware of how younger girls can be put in a box that they have to stay in, and people don’t really see it. In Shine On!, [teaches] girls to be strong women in any field, [to] learn about bullying and how to react or what to do. The girls have so much…to learn.”

Martin thinks the skills Shine On! instills in these young girls really stick; “The girls come back. They wouldn’t come back if they didn’t want to learn more. It’s so important.”

Sponsored by SUNY Plattsburgh, CVPH Foundation, The Development Corporation, Plattsburgh Pediatrics and many others, the Shine On! Conference is free for all registered girls.

This year’s conference workshops focusing on the three main themes are:

I. Communication Skills:

  1. Communication Tools and Tips about Social Media Etiquette presented by the SUNY Plattsburgh Improv Troupe.
    When girls are teased or bullied, they may not have the words to stand up for themselves. This interactive workshop gives girls the skills and talking points to stand up for themselves and others in a non-confrontational way. Attendees and their mentors will discuss and role-play different scenarios about issues like bullying and peer pressure through social media. They will learn to be an upstander, not a bystander.
  2. Diversity presented by SUNY Plattsburgh Adjunct Lecturers Butterfly Blaise and Jada Secone.
    This workshop focuses on recognizing what can be hurtful to others. The girls will also pledge to be “anti-mean.”

II. Media/Marketing Literacy:

  1. Magazine presented by founding member of Shine On! and SUNY Plattsburgh alumna, Chyresse Wells.
    Flipping through the pages of a magazine may leave girls feeling lousy about themselves. These photoshopped images can leave girls feeling insecure. This workshop will show girls that the pictures in the magazines aren’t real, and marketers intend for consumers to buy products rather than feel beautiful in their own skin.
  2. MissRepresentation presented by Health Educator and Shine On! Outreach Coordinator Rhema Lewis.
    Women are often shown on TV, in movies or in commercials more for their looks or bodies, than their talents. Why are women in bikinis used in advertisements to sell trucks? This workshop will help girls better understand the media, marketing and how society sets unrealistic expectations for females.

III. Character Strengths:

  1. Character Strengths presented by fourth-grade teacher, Michelle Gottschall.
    Shine On! will expose girls to the skills needed to overcome obstacles and be successful by introducing them to seven character strengths: grit, zest, optimism, willpower, gratitude, social intelligence and curiosity.
  1. STEM presented by veteran mentor & nursing student, Kelly Martin, and the SUNY Plattsburgh Physics Club.
    This workshop will convey the message that young girls can become involved in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, showing that these fields are both fun and important.

Shine On! will also focus on the well-being of the girls with the following workshops:

  1. Rock Your Confidence presented by SUNY Plattsburgh student Dorian Yablin and women of the Expeditionary Studies program.
    Girls will learn how trying something scary is the first step to success and building a strong self. Through fun activities, such as rock climbing, girls will learn interactive skills to develop confidence in themselves.
  2. Self-Defense with David Boise from Villari’s Self Defense Center in downtown Plattsburgh.
    This workshop will give girls information and tips on safety to help prevent feelings of nervousness, fear and helplessness.
  3. Healthy Eating presented by women of the SUNY Plattsburgh Health and Nutrition program.
    Sometimes parents and girls alike find that fast food is the only answer at the end of a hectic day.  Having a bad day at school could have girls reaching for chocolate. This workshop aims to educate about healthier food choices and to help girls better understand the impact of their choices. They will walk away with healthy ideas that taste great.
  1. Water Zumba with certified lifeguards Sarah Abbate and Haley Miller.
    The pool hour provides time for girls to have fun with their new friends and let loose.

Other activities include:

Night Yoga presented by registered yoga instructor, Berlin Krabs.
After a long day of fun and enlightening workshops, the girls will learn how to manage stress and stay healthy through yoga.

Wake-Up Dance Party presented by certified dance instructor, Ariel Monserrate.
Shine On! will celebrate the completion of the conference with a fun wake-up dance party to show off both girls’ and parents’ moves with some confidence and zest.

For more information, contact SUNY Plattsburgh Associate Professor and Shine On! Founder Colleen Lemza at, visit or receive updates on Facebook at; Twitter @shineongirls; and Instagram @shineon_girls.


Ted K. For Earth Day’s Million Can Redemption Plan

Click the logo to visit the Million Can Redemption Plan website.

The following are samples of what my PR course team and I accomplished for our client, the Ted K. Center, during the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters at SUNY Plattsburgh.

The Ted K. Center is a non-profit youth center which provides educational, social and recreational opportunities for the children who live at Plattsburgh Housing Authority.

The Ted K. Center’s van broke down last summer while transporting children. With funding already minimal, the center looked to us for help in raising $15,000 for a new vehicle and increasing awareness by planning a full-scale public relations campaign.

During the Fall 2014 semester, my team members and I created a content analysis of the small youth center industry.

For this content analysis, we researched 11 other small youth centers across America and compared it to the Ted K. Center. We concluded that what made the biggest difference in funding for these successful youth centers was being involved in the community and having a strong presence on their social media.

Our campaign: “Ted K. for Earth Day’s Million Can Redemption Plan.”

In honor of Earth Day (April 22nd), the Ted K. Center teamed up with SUNY Plattsburgh to collect one million cans and bottles throughout the month of April.

This initiative brought together the Plattsburgh community and utilized the Ted K. Center’s social media, increasing their online presence. This project also benefited the environment by making new containers out of recycled products rather than from raw materials, which reduced energy usage, pollution and greenhouse gases. All proceeds went towards the Ted K. Center who were in desperate need of a new van.

We put together a promotional video, which you can view here.

Our sponsors included:

campaign sponsors

I created the content for this local business-targeted flyer persuading businesses to donate their redeemables during the month of April.

I created the content for this local business-targeted flyer persuading businesses to donate their redeemables. Click to view PDF.
Click to view PDF.

We conducted a road show of sorts, presenting to breakfast and noon Rotary, Clinton County Legislature, the city council and more.

We held a news conference Monday, February 23, 2015 at The Ted K. Center and invited local media. The following morning, our story made the front page of the Press-Republican and Cardinal Points. We were also featured on the WPTZ website, on WNBZ‘s radio and were televised on Mountain Lake Journal PBS.

Click to read online version of the feature article.
Click to read online version of the feature article.
Click to read online version of this article.

We had about 40 businesses donating their cans and bottles to our campaign, thanks to our partnership with the Plattsburgh Distributing Company.

We conducted a contest between the 60 SUNY Plattsburgh clubs and organizations on board and the winner received $200 towards their philanthropy through memorabilia donated by Pepsi Co.

This also became a campus-wide initiative to recycle clean.

We conducted neighborhood sweeps every Saturday and Sunday in April, knocking on all residents’ doors collecting cans and bottles. SUNY Plattsburgh clubs, organizations, sports teams and Greek life were involved, volunteering their time to participate in the sweeps. I participated in the first neighborhood sweep to make sure all groups involved knew the correct messaging.

We were featured again on the WPTZ website and the Press Republican about the neighborhood sweeps.

We also held a contest between all the dorms on campus, and the dorm that recycled the cleanest won a pizza party at the end of April. In order to inform all dorm residents, our team went ‘dorm storming,’ knocking on all dorm room doors with quarter sheets about our campaign and contest. Twice a week, I checked two dorm buildings’ quality of recycling. My team members checked the other dorms on campus.

At the end of every week in April, the campus center displayed the top-5 clubs and organizations that had donated the most bags of cans and bottles and the top dorm with the cleanest recyclables. This was another initiative to have those competing work harder.

Every week, I stopped by the participating businesses and picked up their bottles and cans collected. Then I dropped them off at Northern Cakes Redemption Center and to donate the credit to our campaign.

For Earth Day: We were featured on WNBZ‘s radio on Earth Day.

Plattsburgh Housing Outlet celebrated the Million Can Redemption Plan’s Earth Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. People dropped off bags of redeemable bottles and cans or monetary donations. Each donation of one hundred redeemables (approximately a large garbage bag) or $5 earned a raffle entry for two months of Casella Zero-Sort residential recycling, fun Pepsi prizes and coupons for free products from Dunkin’ Donuts, Taco Bell and KFC.

The first 50 donors received a voucher for a free ice cream cone, pound of deli meat or 6” sub from Northern Cakes Redemption Center. The Plattsburgh Housing Outlet was also offering tours of their energy efficient homes, and Della Honda showcased a 2015 Honda Civic Hybrid.

I participated by showing cars where to drop off their redeemables and increased awareness to cars passing by.

I tabled during ECOFest, a festival celebration where all those from the SUNY Plattsburgh community join to celebrate Earth Day.

While SUNY Plattsburgh held RELAY for Life, we collected redeemables in the beginning of the event. There was also a raffle to win the Rockstar energy drink electric sign and a Mountain Dew cooler donated from Pepsi. All bags donated were able to also go towards the club or organization’s name for the campus contest.

In the last week of April, a few team members and myself drove a van picking up all the redeemables the participating businesses collected over the month of April. We also did one last sweep in the surrounding college housing area.

An Editorial in the Press Republican was written about an update on our campaign on April 29.

Click image to read online article.
Click the PDF to read the online article.

SUNY Plattsburgh published a final conclusion news release about our campaign.

Once the campaign ended, we totaled over 202,000 redeemables collected and raised over $11,000. Support from our sponsors include monetary donations, manpower and supplies, which is equivalent to $5,000. Collecting the redeemables and receiving support from our sponsors has made us exceed our goal in raising $15,000 for the Ted K. Center to purchase a new van.

We totaled 10 local and regional media hits.

Awareness of the Ted K. Center and their social media has also exponentially increased throughout the Plattsburgh community.

Over the course of the campaign, the “likes” on the Facebook page went from 333 to 585, an increase of 43 percent. The daily reach of the posts was 40,799 people total. The posts reached a total of 41,571 people. The total amount of daily engaged users was 3,736 people.

The Twitter account, which was created in January, now has 135 followers. Tweets made a total of 36,607 impressions. Tweets engaged 2,639 people. There was an engagement rate of 7.21 percent 179 people clicked on the Ted K. Center profile from the account’s tweets. 220 favorites on tweets. 218 retweets on tweets.

My totaled credited work hours for this campaign was 125 hours.

Ted K. Earth Day Million Can Redemption Plan Website

Ted K. Earth Day Million Can Redemption Plan Twitter 

Ted K. Earth Day Million Can Redemption Plan Facebook

Homelessness in Plattsburgh is on the rise

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Sept. 14, 2014) —“The fastest growing group of homeless people in Clinton County is families. Many of those families have young children,” Plattsburgh Housing Authority’s Executive Director Mark Hamilton said.

Homelessness in Plattsburgh is increasing each year. According to Hamilton and Homelessness Analytics, during 2008 to 2012, the total number of homeless persons reported have increased from 53 to 236. That’s an increase of four and a half percent.

To help fight homelessness, Plattsburgh has Plattsburgh Housing Authority (PHA), Evergreen Townhouse Community (ETC), Clinton County Department of Social Services (CCDSS), STOP Domestic Violence at Behavioral Health Services North (BHSN), Champlain Valley Family Services and Veteran Affairs.

Local churches help by providing food drives and clothing to the homeless. The Salvation Army also helps by offering affordable everyday items and assistance programs. ETC and SUNY Plattsburgh sponsored a workshop event on homelessness this past Saturday, May 3 at United Methodist Church.

PHA is heavily regulated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and has waiting list requirements. However, PHA does not offer emergency housing. Tenant rent and HUD Subsidy fund PHA.

“The PHA has recently instituted a ‘homelessness preference’ that will give applicants that meet HUD’s approved definition of homeless points to move them up the waiting list,” Hamilton said.

According to, HUD considers a person homeless “only when he/she resides in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings (on the street) or an emergency shelter.

“They may also be in transitional or supportive housing for homeless persons who originally came from the streets or emergency shelters or is in any of the above places but is spending a short time (up to 30 consecutive days) in a hospital or other institution.

“Also being evicted within a week from a private dwelling unit and no subsequent residence has been identified and lacks resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

“Being homeless also includes being discharged within a week from an institution, such as a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility or a jail/prison, in which the person has been a resident for more than 30 consecutive days and no subsequent residence has been identified and the person lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

“Lastly, a person may be considered homeless if they are fleeing a domestic violence housing situation and no subsequent residence has been identified and lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.”

PHA is collaborating with ETC, CCDSS and STOP Domestic Violence on the new homelessness preference and application.

“PHA also has a long-standing history of working with the Clinton County Continuum of Care in an effort to reduce instances of homelessness,” Hamilton said.

ETC is a temporary emergency shelter and provides an intensive case management service for homeless families and individuals. They supply 12 temporary housing units and 21 permanent housing units. They are located at 6 Tara Ln.

CCDSS helps people with domestic violence, employment and assistance, home care, Medicaid and more. They are located at 13 Durkee St.

STOP Domestic Violence is an NYS-certified program under BHSN assisting victims of domestic violence.

According to, they supply “confidential[ly] safe apartments for those in need and eligible for temporary shelter. Safe apartment residents can take care of immediate needs and assess long range plans for a safe environment while utilizing the support and assistance of staff.”

STOP Domestic Violence is located at 22 US Oval, Suite 218.

According to New York Times article Cuomo and de Blasio Clash Again, This Time Over Homelessness, “Mr. Cuomo’s office…had set aside more than $100 million in his proposed budget to help the homeless, mostly in New York City.”

According to United Neighborhood Houses Summary of the 2014-2015 New York State Executive Budget, Homeless Housing Prevention Services Program received a $30.3 million budget.

New York State’s office of Comptroller stated in 2012 Clinton County had 19.5% of household owners and 47% of household renters above the affordability threshold. In 2000, Clinton County had 38.9% of household renters and 17% of household owners above the affordability threshold. That’s almost a 10% increase in renters who have low income in over the past decade.

Clinton County spent roughly $48 million on social services, including emergency housing for adults and family assistance, according to Clinton County’s Legislative Department’s 2013 Budget online document.

Plattsburgh Mayor James Calnon is still new to the issue of homelessness. He plans on discussing more with Social Services Commissioner John Redden and President and CEO of BHSN, Craig Amoth.

Calnon said via email, “Homeless often seek more densely populated areas, as they provide more services, more opportunities for help and more potential spots for shelter, even the opportunity to group together for safety.”

He believes there is a sufficient demand for a shelter in Plattsburgh.

Calnon added, “Any shelter that is created needs to take into account that the City or the Town should not have to shoulder the cost of a shelter by themselves.”

Calnon does not have any plans at this point in time regarding homelessness.

Awareness is the best way to fight homelessness. If you wish to help, contact the mentioned services and organizations.

Hamilton believes “there is a need for some type [of] transitional housing that has a finite amount of time an individual or family could reside in and would require them to have various services (job training, career counseling, household skill training, etc.) that would allow them to have a successful transition from homelessness to permanently housed.”


How diet may affect depression

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Nov. 18, 2014) — The typical American diet consists of salty, sugary and fatty foods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an unhealthy diet may be partly responsible for depressive disorders afflicting an estimated 9 percent of the U.S. population.

However, “There is not enough proven evidence to definitely say that an unhealthy diet is a causing factor in depression,” SUNY Plattsburgh psychologist Dr. Carol Shuttleworth said.

Eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly have proven effects that may be factors in improving depression in patients; “however, not significantly enough for it to become a treatment of depression,” Shuttleworth said.

Research has shown people who are depressed may have low levels of positive neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are often referred to as “feel good” brain chemicals. In fact, many medications used to treat depression specifically target raising serotonin.

To help prevent depression, focus on eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, tryptophan, serotonin, selenium and vitamin B12, suggests SUNY Plattsburgh nutritionist Jeff Vallee.

“These help improve brain function but not directly depression,” Vallee said. “It all comes down to promoting brain function. Anything that limits serotonin [and] selenium, et cetera, could indirectly affect depression because it is decreasing things and makes an impact. It could almost act like a catalyst, speeding things up.”

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Omega-3 fatty acids provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against depression. In recent years, researchers have noted mega-3 fatty acids also improve learning and memory in other mood disorders such as schizophrenia and dementia.

According to WebMD, “Omega-3s appear to affect neurotransmitter pathways in the brain.”

Omega-3 fatty acids can also influence mood, behavior and personality. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in: nut oil, walnuts, flax seeds, peanut butter, kiwi fruit, salmon, mackerel, sardines, algae, krill, bread, granola bars, yogurt, orange juice, milk and margarine.

Complex Carbohydrates, Tryptophan, Serotonin and Selenium:

Complex carbohydrates increase brain levels of tryptophan, the amino acid that converts to mood-calming serotonin in the brain. Complex carbohydrates break down slowly in the body and release energy–creating glucose gradually for an even mood, whereas processed carbohydrates like cake, cookies and sugary processed foods instantly spike blood sugar, leading to sugar rushes and crashes.

When you eat carbohydrates, your pancreas secretes insulin to lower blood levels of amino acids in the food but allows the relaxing amino acid tryptophan to rise and more rapidly reach the brain. Once there, tryptophan is converted to serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for communicating calm between your brain cells, and you instantly feel good.

Tryptophan can be found in complex carbohydrates. “It’s in many protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, beans and eggs,” Vallee said via email.

Complex carbohydrates can also be found in brown rice. Eating carbohydrate foods such as grains, fruits, legumes and starchy vegetables along with protein foods enables tryptophan to get into the brain.

“Selenium is a mineral that is essential to good health. Studies have reported an association between low selenium intake and poorer moods; although, evidence isn’t conclusive on whether supplementation can help. It’s found in beans, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meats, nuts, seeds, seafood and whole grains,” Valle said.

Vitamin B12:

According to the National Institute of Health, “Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.”

It’s important to consume vitamin B12 from animal sources like meat and dairy if you’re depressed. Symptoms of depression include fatigue and B12 helps counteract that. B12 can be found in beef, poultry, liver, other meats, clams, other fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products. Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products are fortified with vitamin B12.

Best Foods to Beat Depression:

Keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum, and fish at least three times a week. Whole foods and lots of fruits and vegetables are recommended to live a healthy lifestyle and indirectly preventing depression in some cases.

  • Wild salmon
  • Oatmeal
  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Spinach
  • Ground flax- seeds
  • Blackberries
  • Shrimp
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Chile peppers
  • Beets
  • Garlic
  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fat-free milk
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cocoa powder
  • Olive oil


Shine On! Raising Resilient Girls Upcoming Parent Workshop Series

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                FOR MORE INFORMATION:
October 20, 2014                                                 Jennifer Gioia, Shine On! Planning Committee


Shine On! Raising Resilient Girls Upcoming Parent Workshop Series


PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Oct. 20, 2014) — The second of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Shine On! Raising Resilient Girls Fall Workshop Series is coming up this Oct. 29. Shine On! is hosting a series of three workshops this fall designed to teach parents how to raise resilient, confident girls.

Oct. 29 — How To Talk To Your Daughter About The Icky Stuff: From first periods and shaving her legs to STDs and sex, parents often struggle with these embarrassing “icky” topics and how to talk to daughters so they’ll listen. Local Certified Nurse Midwife, Karen Case will be on hand to help parents with information to make it through these difficult conversations.

Nov. 18 — Healthy Relationships: Helping Your Daughter Choose Positive Friends and Partners: We all know girls who choose boyfriends who treat them poorly or friends who thrive on nasty drama. Local psychiatrist Joanne Astill, MD and Rhema Lewis, Health Educator & Outreach Coordinator at PSU will discuss how to teach your daughter what to look for in a true friend and how to choose love interests that will inspire them, not inhibit them.

Join the women of Shine On! in an informational night out with good food, a glass of wine and great conversation while you learn tips and tools to raise a strong daughter. Workshops will be held at the new 30City venue on City Hall Place in downtown Plattsburgh. Thanks to the CVPH Foundation, all workshops are free and open to the community. Workshops will be held from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

For more information email or call SUNY Plattsburgh Associate Professor and Shine On! Founder Colleen Lemza at 564-2408.