Luzerne County SHINE Program at Wilkes University Marks Successful First Year

by Gabrielle D'Amico

WILKES-BARRE, PA (Dec. 20, 2016) — The Luzerne County SHINE Program at Wilkes University marked its first year of bringing educational opportunity to students with a Dec. 20 celebration at the West Side Career and Technical Center. The after school program, launched in 2015, now serves more than 300 students in pre-K through eighth grade from five school districts. In addition to marking the program’s first anniversary, the event served to announce that SHINE will open its eighth center at Lee Park Elementary School in the Hanover Area School District in early 2017.

SHINE, which stands for Schools and Homes In Education, serves students in seven centers. The program, offered four days a week, uses a project-based STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum to kindle excitement about learning. School districts served by the program are Hanover Area, Hazleton Area, Greater Nanticoke Area, Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West.

According to SHINE director Carol Nicholas, the program is seeing great success in its first year. She said students in the program reflect its impact.

“They are excited, happy and engaged in active learning,” Nicholas said. “They are becoming critical thinkers, preparing to face the challenges of our future. If these children are a snapshot of our future, we will be in great hands.”

Students and teachers from SHINE joined Nicholas at the event to share their enthusiasm about the program. Students talked about their favorite projects from the past year and a common theme emerged: learning can be fun.

“I liked the turkey project,” said Addison White, who attends the after school center at Nanticoke Elementary School. “I feel smarter because of SHINE. My favorite part is – everything!”

Justine Noss, the lead teacher at the SHINE center at Wilkes-Barre’s Heights-Murray Elementary School, says the program provides benefits not available in the regular school day.

 “SHINE is valuable in the sense that it allows students a different way to comprehend the world around them,” Noss said. “I value SHINE greatly because I can show my students that they can find what they are passionate about and build from their strengths to create a better future.”

State Sen. John Yudichak and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta said that such testimonials confirm that SHINE is doing what they hoped when they first announced they were bringing it to Luzerne County. The two legislators raised $3.1 million in public and private funds to launch the program, aided by grants obtained with the help of Wilkes University.

“In a single year, with the support and guidance of Wilkes University, SHINE of Luzerne County has quickly gone from an exciting concept to an exceptional, innovative after-school program that is already producing positive educational outcomes for more than 300 students in five Luzerne County school districts,” Yudichak said.

“SHINE is proving to be the best kind of investment in the lives of Luzerne County’s children,” Barletta said. “It is sparking enthusiasm for learning, introducing career awareness, and offering a vision for a brighter future. I am proud to have worked with Sen. Yudichak to expand the program into the county and am thrilled with its early success.”

Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy said that serving as SHINE’s higher education host continues Wilkes’ commitment to providing academic opportunities for the community.

“Our partnership with SHINE underscores our tradition of being a private university with a public purpose. One day, we will count SHINE graduates among our student body. It is gratifying to know we will have helped them start on their path to higher education,” Leahy said.

Several highlights from SHINE’s first year of operation were noted. They include:

  • The program opened seven centers in its first year: State Street Elementary School, Heights-Murray Elementary School, Nanticoke Elementary School, Maple Manor Elementary School, West Side Career and Technical Center, Wilkes-Barre Career and Technical Center and Hazleton Area Career Academy.
  • In addition to academic programs, students received a meal every day at the SHINE centers through a partnership with CEO’s Weinberg Food Bank.
  • In addition to the after-school program for students, monthly parenting activities and support services for families also were provided.
  • SHINE’s home visitor program launched in May 2016, offering support and preparation for school readiness through weekly home visits to pre-K and kindergarten students and their parents. 
  • The first SHINE summer camp was held at Wilkes University, offering hands-on science activities led by the University’s science faculty and students.

About Wilkes University:

Wilkes University is an independent institution of higher education dedicated to academic and intellectual excellence through mentoring in the liberal arts, sciences, and professional programs. Founded in 1933, the university is on a mission to create one of the great small universities, offering all of the programs, activities, and opportunities of a large, research university in the intimate, caring, and mentoring environment of a small, liberal arts college, at a cost that is increasingly competitive with public universities. The Economist named Wilkes 25th in the nation for the value of its education for graduates. In addition to 42 bachelor’s degree programs, Wilkes offers 25 master’s degree programs and four doctoral/terminal degree programs including the doctor of nursing practice, doctor of education, doctor of pharmacy, and master of fine arts in creative writing. Learn more at

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