Home Youth service Starfish Initiative is looking for mentors to help Indy’s youth

Starfish Initiative is looking for mentors to help Indy’s youth


For Crystal Givens, life is about giving back to others.

She learned it at a very young age, growing up in the church, and from her mother who has always been the caretaker of the community and a “surrogate” for many children in the neighborhood.

“I didn’t realize how critical this was,” Givens said, “until I was a lot older.”

She began her career as a teacher in early childhood education and eventually found her place in the nonprofit space, becoming vice president of statewide support for Early Learning. Indiana, the state’s oldest nonprofit early childhood education organization.

Givens said she was drawn to the opportunity there because she felt she could impact more students by helping teachers instead of teaching a single class herself.

A year ago, Givens was looking for more opportunities to give back, motivated by the conviction that “it is my vocation to be useful and to serve others”.

She applied to become a Starfish Initiative mentor.

Life events prevented her from completing the orientation, she said, but a month later – as per “quote” – Givens received an email asking her to apply for the director position. executive.

She applied and happily accepted once she received the offer.

“Helping someone else is really very powerful,” said Givens. “If you help this person, you never know who is watching or if that person is going to give back to someone else, and it keeps spreading.”

Starfish Initiative was founded in 2003 to provide mentorship and programs to academically promising young Indianapolis facing adverse conditions in Grades 9 to 12.

At Starfish Initiative, the “best relationships” are forged

Starfish Initiative offers a variety of programs to inspire, encourage and prepare their young “scholars” through leadership sessions, career fairs, college fairs, weekly SMS recordings and other activities. But it’s the mentoring bond that’s unique, Givens said.

Once students are recruited and invited to apply in 8th year, they are matched with a mentor at the start of the first year; and are guided throughout their high school journey by the same mentor, she added.

Although the program only requires mentors to be with students until they finish high school, Givens said they often end up building lasting relationships.

“They form the best relationship,” she said.

Debby Akinfisoye (left) walks with Diamond Jones, her Starfish mentor, during the Winterlights show on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at Newfields in Indianapolis.

Deborah Akinfisoye is a student at Pike High School and a Starfish Initiative Scholar.

Within a semester of graduation, she has been accepted into every college and more she applied to except Purdue, she said, who has yet to respond. She thinks she will go to IU to study biochemistry.

She found her experience at the Starfish Initiative “very useful,” saying her mentor had exposed her to many new things that she had never experienced with her family.

“Outside of school and church,” she said, “we weren’t going anywhere.

However, she said her mentor took her ax throwing to pottery classes and taught her how to use chopsticks.

“Having a mentor really made high school easier than not having a mentor,” Akinfisoye said. “If you are facing something, maybe they have faced the same and they can help you get through it. “

What is the mission of your organization?

Givens said the Starfish Initiative’s mission is to inspire, encourage and prepare academically promising high school students in the face of undeserved adversity for academic and career success.

She describes undeserved adversity as being based on income or geography, lack of resources, child of a single parent family, etc.

How many people do you serve?

Currently, there are 200 academics paired with 200 mentors, Givens said. However, they have other academics and mentors in the pipeline waiting to be matched.

What is your number one need?

Givens said the number one need is for mentors.

“We rely a lot on our mentors to support our mission,” she said. “I think this is a great opportunity for adults to connect with a high school student and help them along their journey.”

But the funding comes right after, she added.

“Funding is also a huge need for the starfish initiative,” Givens said. “We cannot do it alone.”

How can people get involved?

You can become a mentor or donate by visiting the website initiativestarfish.org.

Make a Difference with IndyStar: Support Season for Sharing

The joint mission of IndyStar’s Our Children initiative and the annual Season for Sharing campaign is to harness the power of journalism to make a difference in the lives of young people in central Indiana. We invite you to join us by making a financial contribution. The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will generously donate up to $ 25,000. All charitable donations are tax deductible.

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Contact IndyStar reporter Brandon Drenon at 317-517-3340 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonDrenon.

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