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Large group of people gather standing and sitting for a photo.
Project SHINE stakeholders gather at YAI Headquarters.

On January 29, people came together to celebrate a collaboration almost four years in the making—Project SHINE. SHINE, or Sexual Health Innovation Network for Equitable Education, is focusing on creating accessible sexual and reproductive health resources for young people with I/DD. The project is a collaboration between YAI, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY), AHRC, SANYS, Sinergia, and other partners.  

The idea for Project SHINE first came about because of a clear need. PPGNY kept getting requests for sexual health resources from people with I/DD, but it wasn't fully prepared to handle the requests. That’s when Connie Senior, Assistant Director of YAI Knowledge, was first called in to provide a staff training. From there, PPGNY applied for a federal grant, and Project SHINE was born.  

The SHINE pre-launch celebration brought together a range of stakeholders, including professionals from the network partners, and SHINE Advisory Board Members and Ambassadors. The Board and Ambassadors comprise people with I/DD, family members, caregivers, health professionals, and other people who have been crucial to the project’s success. They played a key role in determining objectives for the project, testing out different components of the project, and spreading the word about the work. 

Project SHINE will officially launch this spring, providing an interactive website that empowers young people with I/DD to explore topics related to sexual health. It will also feature a game with different avatars, allowing people to delve deeper into topics that interest them.

For Sonja Williams, Director of YAI Knowledge, YAI’s involvement in Project SHINE was a clear priority for her department.  

“Everybody has the right to information about their sexual and reproductive health, but for many people with I/DD, those conversations never happen,” said Williams. “Project SHINE helps destigmatize these essential topics so that people can learn more about the subjects that are relevant to them.”