Our 2012 Ambassadors are Beth Awalt and Jenn Zocco, founders of “The Starfish Foundation”.
The Starfish Foundation provides scholarship and mentoring to youth living in extreme poverty in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The idea for this foundation developed after co-founders Beth and Jenn volunteered for a year in Ecuador, where they volunteered at a shelter for poor children. All the kids they worked with had no families or little support at home. Though many of them had the motivation to study, they lacked financial resources to be able to attend school once leaving the shelter.
The shelter Beth and Jenn volunteered at educates students until they are 18 or finish the equivalent of 9th grade. Once they leave the shelter, many of them struggle to pay for books, uniforms, and other school supplies, and thus are unable to finish. Beth and Jenn also noticed similar financial struggles amongst many of their other Ecuadorian neighbors and friends. Though public schools in Ecuador are free, families often still struggle to provide all the necessary materials while living on minimum wage and trying to feed a whole family. The easiest solution is to not go to school.
The Starfish Foundation believes in the importance of education as a catalyst for future success of each student and their communities, thus it provides scholarships and mentoring to students in financial need who have the motivation to continue their studies despite challenging circumstances.
In their 2012 pilot program, they selected 28 scholarship recipients, 19 in conjunction with a partner foundation in the south of Guayaquil, Asociación Movimiento Mi Cometa, and 9 in a neighborhood in the northern peripheries of the city. These students were selected from almost 50 potential students interviewed through initial house visits that determined students’ living conditions and motivation to study. Their scholarship recipients come from some of the most economically needy families, but the scholars also showed a commitment to education despite challenging circumstances.
Beth and Jenn’s goal with this ambassador grant is to have a 100% high school retention rate for their first class of 28 Starfish Scholars (March 2012 – January 2013).
Read more about The Starfish Foundation here! Congrats, Beth and Jenn!