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 program have graduated from high school and 97% 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 attend private schools. In 2006, the board recognized a greater need in the community, and voted to redirect its efforts. Starfish still connects parents and students with scholarship opportunities whenever possible, but our primary emphasis is to offer programming to students in any high school in Marion County who are eligible and enrolled in college preparatory classes. Currently, Starfish serves approximately 340 students in 44 high schools, including public, private, charter and magnet 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.