100% of the students in the Indianapolis mentoring & college access program graduate high school prepared for college life
Mentors and family members gathered together for “Grad Night 2012” to honor 37 low-income, academically-promising students who graduated from 18 different Marion County high schools. The event was held Tuesday night, June 5, at Starfish Initiative, the Indianapolis-based nonprofit that matched each student with an individual “college coach” mentor for all 4 years of their high school experience.
The 37 students represent 100% of the high school seniors in the Starfish program.
“We are proud of our 100% high school graduation rate, particularly compared with the graduation rates of struggling school corporations whose students do not have the resource of an individual, college-focused mentor,” said President and CEO Bob Kizer. “We are making a difference in the high school graduation rate in Marion County just as these teens and their mentors are making a difference in each other’s lives.”
The graduating students will attend 10 different colleges, one as far as Iowa. One high school graduate will defer postsecondary education until after serving in the United States Air Force.
For 4 years, students (called “Scholars”) met at least twice monthly with a college-graduate mentor to talk about college, sort through issues and problems faced by the Scholars, spend time enjoying common interests, and begin the process of deciding where to go to college and what to study. Starfish supports its mentors’ efforts by supplying a great deal of wraparound college access and college success programming, including a Leadership Camp in the woods, Kick Off Nights which prepare Scholars and mentors for each high school year, and career and personality assessments – all at no cost to the Scholar.
And during that time, Scholars and mentors become close. For Grad Night, each Scholar and mentor was asked to describe what they appreciate about the other. Some responses conveyed surprise that so close a relationship formed. Some thanked the other for opening eyes to a world of possibility. Some couldn’t find big enough words. And some spoke for themselves:
- Scholar Brandon Strode wrote: “I appreciate him because he's always there for me. Even when he's busy, he makes time for me. I thank him for being there and taking the time to teach me everything he knows. I value just having Jerry in my life. He always supports me and has my back. I love and respect him. He's like a father to me.
- Scholar Brittany Wells wrote: “Vicki is a kind-hearted, headstrong, focused, wonderful, inspiring woman & mentor. I am so glad that I have had her for the past four years & look forward to her presence in my future. She has been a blessing in my life & I am so grateful to have her on my support team. I couldn't see me without her. Thank you, Vicki, for any & everything.”
- Mentor Desma Belsaas wrote: “What I admire most about Sally is her amazing strength of character and strength of will…. I cannot wait to see the great things you will do with your life!”
- And mentor Paul Disborough write: “I have been honored and blessed to watch Sheimiah grow into young man. I am very excited about his potential to create a great future. Through this mentoring experience I have gained a life-long friend.”
Starfish “alumni” Adri Zermeno, a sophomore at Marian University, and Nick Werle, a 2012 graduate from Indiana University, spoke to more than 70 graduates, mentors, family members, and staff.
Since 2003, Starfish has grown from serving 18 high school Scholars to approximately 350 high school Scholars for school year 2012-13 and continuing to support the success of approximately 130 college Scholars.