Smart Neighbors program adds new collaboration

Amy Stone-Lear, owner and founder of Man in the Moon Candies, has deep family roots in the candy-making industry, dating back to the 1920s. She inherited her love of candy making from her grandfather, who used to own Stone’s Home Made Candies.

Stone-Lear worked as a fulltime optician, making eyeglasses until 2005, when she decided to take her hobby of making candies to the next level. She began selling her sweet treats by order to her friends. She appeared at the Oswego farmer’s markets in the summer of 2006, and by February 2007, Man in the Moon Candies was opened in Canal Commons, located at 203 W. First St.

Stone-Lear worked with Oswego State students as part of a program called Smart Neighbors, started in 2014 by Leigh Wilson, the director of both the  creative writing department, and interdisciplinary programs and activities. The project is a partnership with three other SUNY schools, developed as a way for students of varying disciplines to come together to work on a project that will benefit a community business.

Ultimately, Wilson wanted to build a program that gave students the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to a real-world entity.

“Oswego is full of really interesting businesses and the relationship between the town and the college isn’t as seamless as I would like to see it,” Wilson said. “I feel like our students have a lot to offer the town, beyond just being consumers.”

Wilson said she knew Stone-Lear’s business would be a great candidate for the program’s next project, especially with the novelty of Man in the Moon’s sugary confections. Students began working with the store, meeting with Stone-Lear to decide the different projects that would be created by each of the majors. Collectively, the students first decided on the store’s new slogan, “One Giant Leap for Candy.”

“How can students not get excited?” Stone-Lear said. “It’s candy and who doesn’t like candy?”

The art department’s sculpture classes made different molds from chocolate to resemble the heads of Oswego icons such as Mary Walker and the waves of Lake Ontario. Soap molds were also made to look like waves and other assorted sweet confections, like mini ice cream cones.

The Experiential filmmaking students from the Cinema and screen studies program created short motion pictures that showcased their creative talents and displayed the hard work that goes into making chocolate candies look the way they do.

Creative writing also had a hand in creating promotional material for the store. Fourteen students were divided into three groups to create digital essays with accompanying slideshows that exhibited the store’s sweet delights. Journalism and creative writing student Emily Shaben co-produced the slideshow “Sweet Refuge.”

“As students, this project helps us step out of our comfort zones,” Shaben said in a Oswego State press release. “We forget that a huge part of why we’re here is networking and getting out into the community. This project gives us the confidence to do that.”

Partnering with Man in the Moon to create these projects was more than just another graded assignment in a class, Wilson said. Wilson wants this, and all future projects, to show students how different disciplines can work together to create valuable media.

“They have all become [invested] in what the other disciplines created,” Wilson said. “And that’s my favorite part. Somehow, 150 students become a community, even though they’re not even in the same classes.”

Wilson also emphasized the value in the work that off-site, real-world experience provides to students outside of the classroom and knows how important partnership is to the Oswego community.

“We are a community,” Wilson said. “And that feeling, if I could get the town and the students to feel that way, I would be so happy.”

Smart Neighbors partnered with The River’s End Bookstore in its first year of operation, in 2014, and utilized the services of almost 150 students in eight different classes to create different types of promotional and marketing material for the store.