Shape the Sky’s mission is to “create responsible kids on smartphones” (or devices). The heart of my career over the past twenty-five years has been helping kids succeed and improve their lives. When I am meeting one-on-one with a young person, it’s easy to connect, give advice, and push them towards success. Through my counseling career and working with students in schools, I build a connection and the ability to encourage them.

Once I started traveling the country talking about social media and mental health, the connection to youth was lost in my message to a certain degree. I was still developing and delivering training content that was a result of connecting with kids in schools, but the voice of the kids themselves started to fade.

Over the years, I’ve been trying to find great ways to have youth be a direct part of the mission. However, it has proven to be a difficult task. Finding the right way to have a youth voice hasn’t been easy. I’ve been able to share some stories of inspirational kiddos through the Youth Spotlight and showcase the wonderful things they have done. However, those kids were doing great things outside of my mission on their own. What I was looking for was a way to essentially have kids that are already “responsible kids on smartphones” create content and inspiration for other kids and adults in this ever changing digital world.

I’d like to introduce the Youth Projects page of the website. Here is where I will be able to host youth projects that align with the mission of Shape The Sky. I’m kicking off this section with two projects completed by a Montour High School CHS Cybersecurity and Law class led by the teacher Michael Waldron. Mr. Waldron approached me and asked if he could have one of his classes put together a project about technology and social media and “Absolutely!” was my response. I connected with his class and gave them some of my goals from Shape the Sky. These students then developed their own ideas and projects, and I’m now very proud to be able to bring them to you. Their two projects will hopefully be the kick off to many more student-led resources for adults and kids.

If you are the teacher of a class that would be interested in creating some resources for parents and/or students as a class project, send me a message, and let’s get it started!!

~ Ryan

2021 Project: Social Media and Mental Health

How does the overuse of social media affect the mental health of adolescents? What do parents need to know? What can adolescents do to avoid the risks associated with social media? The purpose of this project was to research the link between the overuse of social media and mental health decline. The video provides researched facts regarding the subject, states the risks and potential downfalls of social media, includes helpful tips for parents and students to prevent mental health decline from occurring, and incorporates footage from high school students sharing their opinion on the subject.

Class: Montour High School CHS Cybersecurity and the Law class led by Michael Waldron

Team Members: Henley Staley,  Ang Maietta,  Colin Dhase,  Nick Schindehette

Student Bios:

Henley: My name is Henley Staley and I am a junior at Montour High School. After high school, I plan on going into the psychiatry field since mental health is something I prioritize. As a teen, I constantly see people around me being unmotivated and depressed. One of the main reasons is the overuse of social media. I have first-hand experience with this along with many other people and I want to shed light on this issue. It is important to educate both parents and teens on the risks and also provide ways to prevent mental health decline from occurring.

Angela: “My name is Angela Maietta. I’m also a junior at Montour High School. Like Henley, I constantly see students my age not motivated, but they are always on their phone. This project helped me see there is a reason why students’ mental health is low and one of the main reasons why is because of social media. I wanted to help parents know some of the downfalls of social media. I think the topic of mental health is rarely talked about, so I think it is important to shed light on the topic for parents. ”

Colin: My name is Colin Dhanse and I’m a sophomore at Montour High School. Even though I have only been at the high school for two years, I’ve noticed that ever since the COVID pandemic, a lot has happened. Phones have become even more popular and social interactions even less.  Students are on their phones constantly. Social media is being used by everyone now from kids to adults, so I believe that social media and screen time is a very bad habit for people and needs to be addressed.

Nicholas: My name is Nicholas Schindehette. I’m a senior at Montour High School. I am continuing my education in psychology, so I wanted to get a deeper understanding of why mental health issues occur and how to remedy them in regards to social media.

2021 Project: Misinformation: A Social Media Epidemic

How does misinformation spread? Why is misinformation so important? How do I avoid misinformation?

In a short video, we are going to teach you about the dangers associated with misinformation, how common and widespread misinformation is, reasons behind misinformation, how the public contributes to misinformation, and reliable resources you can use to fact check current events or news and to avoid misinformation.

Class: Montour High School CHS Cybersecurity and the Law class led by Michael Waldron

Team Members: Rachel DeFeo, Blake O’Malley, Thorian Bowman, Aidan Ferry and Dylan Broda

Student Bios:

Rachel: My name is Rachel DeFeo and I am a senior at Montour High School. This fall, I plan to attend Penn State University to major in cybersecurity. I have always loved math, technology, and problem-solving, which all led me to choosing my major. I have been involved in numerous clubs throughout high school, inducted in National Honors Society, and played for the high school soccer team. Misinformation is a huge problem in our society today, which was the inspiration for our group project.

Blake: I’m Blake O’Malley and I’m a junior at Montour High School. As of right now, I plan to attend college and major in mathematics. I’m an NHS member and am a part of various school clubs like Cure Finders and the Acts of Random Kindness club. I chose to research and learn more about misinformation because I think it’s an issue that is more widespread and problematic than people realize, especially on social media. I see multiple examples of misinformation every single day, so I thought it would be a good topic to choose in this day and age

Thor: I am Thorian Bowman and am currently a senior at Montour High School. In the near future I am planning on attending La Roche University for a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Computer Security. I play for the boys volleyball team and have been a part of our Acts of Random Kindness club(ARK). I have always had a passion for computers and criminology so this project allowed me to see big portions of each side. Certain forms of misinformation can be so severe that legal action might need to be taken. This project allowed me and my fellow group members to do research on where misinformation comes from and actions you can take to stop it or hinder the spread of misinformation. Misinformation is a common evil in today’s society and needs to be limited.

Aidan: “My name is Aidan Ferry and I am currently a Junior at Montour High school. In the future I want to attend Pittsburgh University where I would study for a degree in Criminal Justice. As of this I am not in any of the clubs at Montour. I chose the topic for misinformation because I think this problem is widespread and is super common in today’s society. Misinformation can be really bad for the community and children online because many people who use the internet today don’t understand how to cope with this and find the factual information this was derived from.”

Dylan: “My name is Dylan Broda and I am currently a Junior at Montour High School. In the future I plan going into computer science not sure exactly what field and also do real estate and own rental properties. At Montour I am in the Student Council, Pet Pals, Chess Club, ARK and Graphics Clubs. The reason we came to the decision to do misinformation is because it is a big problem on social media and can be fixed if you take the proper actions.”

2020 Project: Digital Safety Tips From Teens

Our driving question for this project was whether or not children are safe and responsible enough to use social media in today’s society. The goal of “Digital Safety Tips From Teens” is to inform parents about the good and bad effects of technology. We want the parents to be aware that technology and social media are not just used to text friends and families nowadays, there is more to it. On the handout, there are opinions from our school administrators, there is a pros and cons list about the use of technology, and there are helpful resources that could possibly answer more questions parents have about this specific topic.

Class: Montour High School CHS Cybersecurity and the Law class led by Michael Waldron

Team Members: Cole Gasparovich & Kayla Coffield

Student Bios:

Cole:My name is Cole Gasparovich and I am a senior at Montour High school. I will be continuing my education at Slippery Rock University with a goal of getting my masters in business administration and management. I have worked at a retirement home called The Residence at Willow Lane since April of 2018. I chose to focus on this topic because I believe that parents deserve to know ways to know how to keep their kids safe on their devices with the way the world is shifting towards technology for such young ages.”

Kayla: “I am Kayla Coffield and I am a senior at Montour High School. I plan to further my education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I will be majoring in Computer Science/Cyber Security. I am also in the Army National Guard so I also plan on entering into the ROTC program during college which will then lead me to an 8 year Active Duty contract right out of college. Until college starts, my main focus will be on graduating from my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to become an Army Chemical, BIological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist this summer.”

2020 Project: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of TikTok

Is TikTok a safe and educational platform for your children to be on? We’re here to answer that!

We will show you the best of the best of TikTok, and the worst of the worst on TikTok. We will explain what TikTok recommends for an appropriate age and overview the terms of service they apply on their app. We will also explain some useful tips and risks to look out for when using TikTok. As teenagers in high school we will give our overall opinion of the app and give an appropriate age for kids to be on the app.

Class: Montour High School CHS Cybersecurity and the Law class led by Michael Waldron

Team Members: Giovanna Nicolai,  Peyton Moffatt, Aaron Ebner, John Kashmer, and Giovanni Gigliotti

Student Bios:

Giovanna: “My name is Giovanna Nicolai. I am a junior at Montour High School. I am a varsity cheerleader and I enjoy participating in clubs such as Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America and Cure Finders. After High School, I plan on majoring in Information Science with a focus in Data Analytics or Computer Security.”

Peyton: “My name is Peyton Moffatt, and I am currently a senior at Montour High School. I am involved with many clubs in my schools, including Cure Finders, Math Team, and National Honors Society. I have always enjoyed using and learning about technology. After High School, I will be attending Carnegie Mellon University and majoring in Information Systems.”

Aaron: “My name is Aaron Ebner and I am a senior at Montour High School. I am a part of the Montour swim team and the track and field team. I am a part of clubs such as graphics and lost arts. I will be attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania and majoring in Computer Science.”

John: “My name is John Kashmer and I am a junior at Montour High School. I am involved in different clubs in Montour such as Future Business Leaders of America, Spartan Startups, and Spartan eSports. After High School, I plan on majoring in cyber security or data sciences.”

Giovanni: My name is Giovanni Gigliotti and I am a senior at Montour High School. After high school, I plan on attending a 4 year university where I will double major in Finance and Applied Mathematics. I then plan to attend graduate school for my MBA in Finance. I plan to enter the investment banking/hedge fund industry after my six years of college.”