Alan Rambam is deeply distressed by the recent spate of high-school shootings. But as the founder of SHINE (Seeking Harmony in Neighborhoods Everyday), a nonprofit formed to teach kids healthy ways of dealing with aggression, conflict, and low self-esteem, he is not surprised. “Everybody’s blaming the media and the Internet and poor gun control and video games,” he says pointedly. “But who’s teaching these kids the tools to combat their rage?”
In 1993, after the hit-and-run death of his mother, a public-school teacher devoted to helping problem kids, Rambam – who then owned a multi-million-dollar children’s-marketing firm – founded KidsBridge, a chain of multicultural interactive museums. That earnest endeavor morphed into the more strategic SHINE, which actively seeks out corporate partnerships, after Rambam was deluged by teachers’ requests for nonviolence lesson plans. With the help of Scholastic, Inc., Rambam created a popular Website for kids and teachers. How popular? Within a few days of the shootings in Littleton, Colorado, the SHINE site had received thousands of e-mails and distraught poems from teens and become the second-most-visited teen site on the Internet, just behind Teen People’s.
Rambam immediately met with Tommy Hilfiger Kids president and SHINE sponsor Todd Howard and arranged a trip to Littleton, where he talked with students and teachers and organized the production of a mural made by Columbine students. The Colorado effort was an offshoot of the shine/Hilfiger “Stop Violence Start Art” Mural Project, a current nationwide contest in which the winning murals will appear in Tommy Hilfiger billboard ads – just one of the many ways Rambam has used his Rolodex and adman savvy to circumvent the red ink and red tape that often stifle nonprofits.
Other coups include an anti-violence public-service-announcement contest with MTV, with the winning concept to be produced and aired this fall; a Nickelodeon motion-capture PSA with Rosie Perez as the lead voice; a SHINE program that is sending plus-size model Kate Dillon, rapper Snake, model Kimora Lee, and actor Benjamin Bratt into schools to discuss self-esteem; and discussions with Russell Simmons about a “We Are the World”-like rap song to raise capital for nonviolence education.
Rambam may have perfected the art of hitting celebrities and companies where it counts – in their consciences and wallets – but it’s all those Website hits that really got him thinking. Come August, Internet navigator Excite and SHINE will launch a multi-million-dollar megasite, projecting 1 million hits per week. “It will be the largest online interactive community, with art and musical content created by kids and teachers and celebrities,” brags Rambam. “I mean, these kids are online already, so let’s get them to do something positive. Why should some Nazi in a basement be able to reach them better than a multi-million-dollar corporation?”