In her junior year of college at Arizona State University, Ashley LeMieux of The Shine Project faced a common dilemma. She knew she wanted a job after graduation where she could help other people, but she didn’t know where to begin. She figured law school was a good way to start.
But her senior year, in the span of just a few weeks, things changed dramatically. She took an internship at a local high school in a program called AVID that was aimed at preparing juniors and seniors for college.
LeMieux noticed a problem. The kids, who she describes as “bubbling over” with talent, had lots of other, more important concerns on their minds, like taking care of younger siblings and simply surviving everyday life. They had few, if any, positive examples to follow or ways to break the cycle of struggle within their families.
She had previously started a blog, called The Shine Project, to inspire herself for her last year of college, and decided to use it to be a voice for the at-risk youth. “I wanted to create a space that was positive and full of happiness and full of stories of triumph. And I think because of what I founded the project on — those basic emotions — it organically grew.”
LeMieux, who had $300 in her account at the time, turned The Shine Project into a nonprofit and started raising money for scholarships that would range between $1,000 and $2,500 each. She was able to fund seven of them through her grassroots effort, mostly from small donations.