There’s a lot of ugliness in the world right now, and it’s easy to get sucked into the negativity. Before you know it, you’re sad, feeling like the world is a dark horrible place and everything around you is terrible.
To be honest, I’ve been in that place lately more often than I’d like to admit. It seems nearly impossible to avoid; you turn on the TV and the news brings you down, Facebook is a bottomless pit of despair and the current events are all people want to talk about in casual conversation. In one of those moments of weakness, where I was feeling like the world was a dark, horrible, sad place, I decided to watch some YouTube. Because who doesn’t watch videos to help cheer them up?
In one of the videos, I noticed the girl was wearing a really beautiful bracelet and she linked the company in the description box. Needless to say, I decided it was time to dive deep into online shopping. The bracelet was from a company called The Shine Project, so I started doing a little research on them (to justify spending money, of course) and quickly fell in love.
The Shine Project is a non-profit created by Ashley LeMieux to help inner city students to be the first in their families to attend college. Ashley was in her senior year of college and student teaching at an inner city high school in Phoenix when she saw the struggle these kids were facing as they finished their high school career. Many of them never imagined going to college, how would they financially make it work? Ashley turned to her social media and started to raise money to send a group of seniors to college. She started a blog called The Shine Project to create an inspirational and motivational space on the internet. People from around the world could visit The Shine Project and feel on top of the world, rejuvenated and able to tackle whatever challengers where thrown their way.
Ashley managed to give away 7 scholarships during that time, but knew that raising money for inner city youth meant more than a onetime fundraising effort. That’s when she founded the non-profit organization, The Shine Scholarship Project, to help continue to raise money for these students. In 2012, Ashley taught herself how make bracelets with the goal of employing a few students that had received scholarships to help them pay for school. She invested $500 in jewelry supplies and hired a few students, and within a month all of her bracelets were sold out. Since then, they opened their headquarters in downtown Phoenix where students come after school to hand make every piece of jewelry. The students run everything from customer service, shipping, jewelry design, t-shirt design, sales and events. Over 40 scholarships have been given out since 2011 with 100% of donations given to the non-profit going directly to the students.
Now, I’m not exactly what you call an emotional person. Sure, I’ll tear up if someone I care about is hurting, and if you show me an injured dog, I will cry my eyes out. But after reading about The Shine Project, what they do, and watching Ashley’s video, I broke down. In that moment of feeling like there’s nothing positive in the world and everything is horrible, this is what cut through the negativity for me. This is what we need in the world: we need more companies, businesses and people shining a light on positivity, supporting each other and bringing others up, rather than dragging them down.
Naturally I bought a bracelet (how could I not?) and hope to support this organization in the future. I feel connected with these students and love that you get to know them and follow them through their college career, something they never thought could be possible. But of course there are countless other organizations like The Shine Project out there who could use our support. If you’re an animal lover, many local shelters are at capacity with dogs and cats they rescued from the hurricanes and could use volunteers or donations. There are tons of organizations set up to help Las Vegas and the shooting victims get back on the road to recovery. It’s wonderful to see people step up to help their community rebuild. In the end, we’re all in this together. *cue High School Musical songs*
My ask for you: in the next month and especially leading up to the holidays, go out and support either a non-profit you feel passionate about, a local business or do a good deed for someone in need. There’s no better feeling than helping others, and if we all join together to help our community to shine, the world will become a more beautiful, happy, positive place. I guarantee it.