I realized that now that I've been here over a month and blogging for most of that time, that while I explained what AmeriCorps*VISTA is, I never explained what Starfish Initiative is. So, today, a remedy for that.
Starfish is a nonprofit in Indianapolis, founded in 2003. Starfish, is at its core, a mentoring program. We pair academically promising high school students who are living in poverty with a college-educated mentor. The mentor becomes their "college coach," another adult in their lives dedicated to their academic success.
All of the students we serve are income eligible to qualify for one of the State of Indiana's 21st Century Scholars Scholarships. That guarantees that if students complete high school with a good GPA and stayed out of trouble, the state will pay for eight semesters at a state university.
The problem is, in Indianapolis Public Schools, the graduation rates are abysmal. Students who qualify for the scholarship can't take advantage of it because they aren't graduating.
This is where Starfish comes in. The mentors can help students stay on track to graduating high school by helping them solve problems that arise in their education -- like getting a needed graphing calculator -- and helping to expose students to the world and possible future career fields.
Starfish also works with the students to provide leadership and community service opportunities that they may not be able to take part in at their high schools, in order to help students have experiences that will make them competitive in college.