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Starfish Initiative

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Adult & Child Matching Programs, Children & Youth, Youth Development Programs

Mission: Starfish Initiative inspires, encourages, and prepares promising, economically disadvantaged students for college and career success. Starfish Initiative is a college access and readiness program serving economically disadvantaged high school students in Marion County, Indiana. We believe that mentoring is the key to improving the educational attainment and future of today’s youth. To that end, we match every student in the Starfish program with a college-educated, volunteer adult mentor whose job is to help walk their student into college. Thanks to the guidance of their mentors, 100 percent of the Starfish Scholars who completed the four-year program have graduated from high school and 98% have been accepted by colleges or universities across Indiana — and beyond. Starfish was founded in 2003 by a group of local businessmen, concerned that many of the academically promising but economically disadvantaged students in Indianapolis were not getting the preparation for post-secondary education they needed to be the future leaders of the community. They founded Starfish Initiative — the name taken from the famous “Starfish Story” — to help economically disadvantaged students. Currently, Starfish serves approximately 340 students in 40 public, private, charter and magnet high schools. Improving the educational attainment of promising, economically disadvantaged students is one of the region’s greatest needs. According to a 2009 study by America’s Promise Alliance, only 30 percent of urban high schoolers in Indianapolis graduate, putting Indianapolis as 50th of the top 50 cities in the country for graduation rate. Each dropout costs the state of Indiana about $3,000 a year for the rest of their lives, a great public cost, at a time when economic growth and development and a well-educated workforce are of paramount importance. With a commitment to long-term, community-based mentoring, leadership training and college access programming, Starfish Initiative is uniquely placed in the community to improve graduation rates, post-secondary educational access and make a difference for students and their families — one at a time.

Results: Are they having an impact? Just look at the statistics for the 900 students who have become Starfish Scholars since its founding in 2003. • 100% graduate from high school • 98% go directly to college • 74% have graduated or are still in pursuit of their college degree

Target demographics: high school students

Direct beneficiaries per year: 324 students

Geographic areas served: the Greater Indianapolis Area

Programs: a college-educated mentor for each low-income/high-achieving high school student that will help them reach college and career success.

Community Stories

1 Story from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



Rating: 4

I think that the Starfish Initiative is such a needed non-profit in the Indianapolis area. The number of high academic achieving, low income students in this area is astonishing. During my year of volunteering with Starfish I have met so many scholars who are the translators for their family, the tutors, and caretakers for their siblings and at such young ages. All the while, being so driven to be a successful student, oftentimes involved also in clubs and sports. The parents want the absolute best for their kids and the opportunity for another positive adult to assist in the high school process is welcomed and encouraged. The way that the staff work to make the best possible scholar/mentor matches just shows their dedication to both their volunteers and program participants. I look forward to continuing to volunteer my time to Starfish.