Wilkes based program encourages young students to “SHINE”

After school program for elementary and middle school students receives grants


Courtesy of Wilkes Marketing

The SHINE program celebrated the grand opening of its eighth center at Lee Park Elementary School. Pictured is the ribbon cutting ceremony, with the ribbon adorned with images colored in by students. Children, left to right: Reliant Hernandez De La Cruz; Faith Jones; Skyler Purta; Jaydon Skipalis; Jolene Booth. Adults, left to right: Kellie Kuhl, SHINE lead teacher; Ann Marie Kochuba-Mantione, Lee Park Elementary School principal; Andrew Kuhl, Hanover Area superintendent; Representative Eddie Day Pashinski; Tyler Brezinsky, representing Congressman Lou Barletta; President Patrick Leahy, Wilkes University; Senator John Yudichak; Carol Nicholas, Luzerne County SHINE director; Deanna Drako, SHINE assistant director of middle school programs; Marlon Pitts, SHINE assistant director of elementary programs.

In her 1986, number one hit, The Greatest Love of All, singer Whitney Houston shared this sentiment, singing: “I believe the children are our future/ Teach them well, and let them lead the way/ Show them all the beauty they possess inside/ Give them a sense of pride to make it easier/ Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…”

The Luzerne County SHINE program provides academic enrichment for students from kindergarten through senior high school. The program, geared to grades K-8, focuses on a project-based STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) curriculum.  Relying heavily on a STEAM core, SHINE links schools to homes to help children build a stronger academic and social foundation.

This past week, SHINE received three monetary gifts on its behalf: A $10,000 gift from UGI and undisclosed amounts from AllOne Foundation and Highmark Blue Shield. This was not the only victory for the program over the last week. On March 20, Wilkes celebrated the opening of the eighth SHINE after school center, at Lee Park Elementary School in Hanover Township.

According to Carol Nicholas, director of SHINE Luzerne County, the positives coming forth as a result of the SHINE program are endless.

“We’re really seeing students getting enthused for education again. We’re hearing from teachers that kids are excited,” Nicholas said. “If they (students) miss school, they can’t go to SHINE, so attendance is increasing because kids want to be in school… It’s a confidence builder for kids and building a student’s confidence is one of the number one ways to ensure that they succeed.”

Nicholas also elaborated on the depth of the program, and it reaches much deeper than meets the eye. “It’s a multi-faceted program. We only spend of our three hours with students, 20 (minutes) on homework, a movement activity, we feed every one of our students a hot meal – for many, it is the meal they get that day- and then we spend two full hours on project-based STEAM activities. We’re exposing them to a number of things, they may not be exposed to during the school day.”

SHINE, despite its STEAM-based curriculum, has a more holistic, fundamental message.

“We’re really trying to get them (students) to be good communicators, critical thinkers, investigators, followers of the scientific process, so that regardless of future career aspirations, we’re exposing them to technology, arts and sciences, and allowing them to get a feel for all of those subject areas, so that they can start to look at ‘What fits me? What do I really like?’” Nicholas said. “In my mind, finding the career you really like, is the one you do the best in.”

Students involved are also experiencing a great sense of preparation and an excitement for the program.

“When talking about our home-visiting students, those are kids who have a home visitor that comes in every week to their home, to help them work on school readiness, either for kindergarten or first grade. Those kids get to know their home visitors very intently and it becomes their private teacher. They (students) wait at the door with pencils ready, waiting for their home-visitor. At a very early age, we’re trying to foster these kids a sense of school readiness and relationships with teachers,” Nicholas said.

With its unique curriculum, SHINE also encourages students to specialize in their specific interests and encourages a continual, consistent love of learning.

“We try to link the kids to things that they’re interested in,” Nicholas said. “So, that if (students) are very much technology driven, we would track them that way. Kids are finding their own way, as a result we see enthusiasm. We’re getting them to think outside the box, and students take this enthusiasm and carry it back to their home school(s). The goal is to get a whole, round-circle, again fostering a love of learning in kids, and letting them know, school doesn’t stop at 12th grade.”

Despite being only in its first year, the SHINE program has an enrollment of more than 450 students and 65 staff members, most of whom come directly from a full day’s work at school. Instructors and students alike are benefitting from SHINE, hoping for the continued growth and success of the program.