Taking a chance on Brite

Spaceship drawing by a Brite girl When I read about the Brite Program in an email from the NGCP in the spring of 2021, I was torn – after a year filled with online programming due to the pandemic, would girls be interested in participating in yet another online program?  Could I successfully facilitate yet another online program after over a year of entirely remote teaching?  As I reread the Brite Program goals, I decided that the uniqueness of this program was worth taking a chance and, just like the outcome shared by so many of the amazing BriteTalk presenters, taking a chance – in my case on applying for and facilitating the Brite Program – and in the case of the girls who participated - doing yet another online program - was so worth it!

Brite Program Certificate of Achievement for Penn State University The Penn State University EnvironMentors Brite Program brought together girls from four different school districts from across Pennsylvania, most of whom had never met before.  Due to this, our program met via Zoom the week before Brite officially started to go over the format of the program and the Edmodo platform, answer any questions and do an icebreaking activity that was developed by our program’s assistant facilitator, Chelsea, undergraduate biology, pre-vet major interested in species conservation. 

During the two weeks of the Brite Program, we met synchronously each day of Brite for the Icebreaker activity, then again synchronously after the BriteTalk to reflect on the speaker and introduce the day’s Independent Activity.  All synchronous sessions were held using Zoom. Chelsea often led the icebreakers, which gave her the opportunity for leadership in the Brite Program. She was "incredibly honored to be able to participate in the Brite Program. Not only was it highly inspiring for the younger girls involved, but it also really inspired me! Having a mentor at any age or point in your career is extremely helpful and empowering.” 

Screengrab of coded dance party Everyone in our program appreciated the flexibility that the Brite Program afforded.  The girls were not required to be logged into the online platform the entire afternoon each day and could work on the day’s Independent Activity as their schedule and their interest allowed.  One of the girls in our program who was also attending summer volleyball practices during the weeks of Brite spent hours one evening coding a dance party and shared it across the country to the Brite program participants using the Edmodo platform. Her enthusiasm was infectious, “It took forever to make but it’s fun to watch. Hope I make your morning!”

I found the Edmodo platform, which I was not familiar with, very easy to use and, in addition to email, utilized our program’s “small group” on Edmodo to communicate daily with the girls. I appreciated the daily outline that was provided on the Brite class on Edmodo and that links to the speakers were provided for girls who could not participate in the live session or who wanted to go back and watch a speaker again. The girls really benefited from the large amount of time that was scheduled for Q & A with each of the speakers and it was so exciting that at least one of our girls got to unmute and ask a question.  Each of the speaker’s interests, work experiences, and formal education were so interesting and varied, most of the girls had a connection with at least one.  For example, it was awesome to see the comment from our girls "Me too, I love ceramics!!!" in the chat when one of the speakers shared that she had an interest in ceramics.

Families could immediately see the impact that the Brite Program had on their child. "It really helped her confidence, and she has been looking into some of the careers that she got introduced to from the program!"

As we all learned from the Brite Program, taking chances can be a very positive thing, and the two weeks of the Brite program certainly were a positive and Brite spot in the summer of 2021!

Dr. Kathy Shaffer is an Associate Teaching Professor of Chemistry at Shenango campus of Penn State University and a member of the Penn State University EnvironMentors leadership team.