PLATTSBURGH — A mother of 10-year-old twin girls, Colleen Lemza knows it can be difficult to raise healthy, self-confident daughters in today’s world.
“In this day in age, it seems like everything is going against kids,” said Lemza, assistant professor of journalism and public relations at SUNY Plattsburgh and coordinator of the third-annual Shine On Conference.
The overnight event, sponsored by Aveeno, Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, the Price Chopper GOLUB Foundation and Subway, aims to empower young girls and supply them with the tools necessary to safely navigate social pressures.
“There’s a lot of pressure for these young girls to have to try to be something that they’re not,” said SUNY Plattsburgh senior Justine Almeraris, a member of the event’s Organizing Committee.
For this year’s conference — scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28 — 180 girls in third, fourth and fifth grades will gather on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus to participate in a variety of workshops on topics such as communicating effectively, eating healthy, building confidence and understanding the media.
Acting as mentors to event attendees will be SUNY Plattsburgh students trained in teaching positive character traits, media literacy and safety.
“They’re the ones that are actually bringing the message to the girls,” Lemza said.
Michelle Gottschall, a fourth-grade teacher at Momot Elementary School, sent two of her daughters, Sophia, 11, and Olivia, 9, to last year’s conference.
The sisters particularly enjoyed the event’s workshop on how images in magazines are often Photoshopped and don’t accurately portray women’s physical features, Michelle said.
“I think it’s neat for them to see that that’s not real life.
“They’re really looking at it like, ‘I don’t want to measure myself against that,’” she said.
Though this year’s overnight event filled up in just six days, there is still room for parents who wish to attend the conference’s free “Raising Resilient Girls” workshops on April 27 in the Alumni Room of the Angell College Center.
The first session, “Healthy Eating for Busy Families on the Go,” will take place from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. and will focus on family nutrition.
“Kids are so structured and busy these days … so moms are constantly trying to figure out how they get healthy food into their families,” Lemza said.
In addition to providing healthy-snack tips, the workshop will address how to recognize and respond to eating disorders in young girls.
There can be a fine line, Lemza said, between encouraging healthy eating and giving children complexes about their weight, so this workshop aims to help parents find that balance.
The second session, “Tips for Talking to Your Daughter about Her Body and Boys,” will run from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. and explore ways parents can communicate with their daughters about everything from shaving their legs to their first crushes.
“A lot of moms and dads just don’t feel comfortable talking about that stuff,” Lemza said.
And lastly, “Social Media Safety,” will take place from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. and will seek to familiarize parents with the effects that social-media platforms can have on their daughters’ daily lives.
In addition, moms and dads will be provided with note cards bearing messages, such as “You are strong,” “You are resilient,” “I love you,” and “You’re perfect the way you are,” which they will be encouraged to place in their daughters’ lunchboxes or backpacks as a reminder of their worth.
“As an educator and a parent, I’m so excited about the Shine On Conference because it really does take a village (to raise a child),” Michelle said.
Registration for “Raising Resilient Girls” is from 2 to 2:30 p.m. on the day of the event in the Angell College Center. Parents may also register online at shineongirls.org.
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