When I first moved to Indianapolis last summer, I was searching for a way to connect and get involved with my new city. Being from out-of-state I had no idea where to start, so I crowdsourced recommendations for volunteer opportunities from coworkers which is where I learned about the Starfish Initiative. Upon learning about this nonprofit and how it works to impact economically disadvantaged high school students in Indianapolis to prepare for college and career success, my interest was sparked and I immediately enlisted to serve as a mentor.
What is the Starfish Initiative?
Founded in 2003, the Starfish Initiative works to impact local high school students who qualify for Twenty-First Century Scholarships by pairing them with a college-educated mentor throughout their four years of high school education. Scholars in the program are provided many resources such as career exploration guidance, receive information on paying for college, and opportunities to build social capital. This nonprofit has significantly impacted student success for the “scholars” who participate in the program. For over the 1,000 students who have participated in the program since it was founded:
- 100% graduate from high school;
- 96% go directly to college; and
- 78% have graduated from college or are still in pursuit of their college degree.
Each year, incoming ninth graders are encouraged to apply to participate in the Starfish Initiative. This year, the program welcomed 111 new freshman high school students into their program.
Who is a mentor and what do they do?
A mentor is a college-educated volunteer who makes a two-year commitment to work one-on-one with their scholar. They touch-base with their scholar on a weekly basis and meet twice a month in person. The role of a mentor is to assist their scholar with connecting to college resources, encouraging them to explore careers, and making sure they are staying on top of their school work.
Bi-weekly meetings are diverse for the mentor and scholar and vary from a college visit, checking out a new restaurant in town, simply taking a walk to hear about how school is going for the scholar, and everything in between.
What’s in it for volunteers?
There are many benefits to serving as a mentor for the organization. Mentors are valued by their scholar. They have the opportunity to impact the life of a local high school student and be part of their journey for college and career success. I cannot wait for the day I get to see my student walk across the stage at graduation! Volunteering with the Starfish Initiative also allows for networking opportunities with fellow members as a means to become more integrated with other professionals in Indianapolis. After volunteering for over a year now, I have personally grown and have felt impactful on the community. Did I mention that being a mentor is also a ton of fun?
How does someone get involved?
While matching typically occurs over the summer, there is still a need for mentors for the fall of 2017. Volunteers complete an application, an interview, and a background check before they are a mentor. If you or someone you know wants to apply for this upcoming school year (or next school year) you can contact Starfish Initiative at 317-955-7912 or start your application on their website.
Want more information?
Does the Starfish Initiative sound familiar? Maybe you have seen them at IndyVolved as an exhibitor over the past several years! This organization has a volunteer listing on IndyHub’s website, and you can learn more here.
Karley Clayton, a Wisconsin native, is student affairs educator who proudly serves University College students at IUPUI. She loves cheese curds (obviously), 80’s music, and plotting her next adventure. You’ll find Karley walking the Monon Trail or drinking a cider in Broad Ripple.