Rising Stars, Inc., a not for profit youth foundation and community outreach organization based in New York, offers economically challenged families greater opportunities by providing their children with athletic scholarships and academic support. In this Q&A, the organization’s Executive Director, Dan Gimpel, answers common questions regarding the scholarships, the academic support, and application process.
Q: How did the concept of scholarships first come about and how far have you come with that?
Dan Gimpel, Rising Stars, Inc.: Our first scholarship was established in memory of a former Rising Star and close friend, Ryan Fitzgerald, who lost his life during the 9-11 tragedy. I wanted to establish a program that both honored his memory and provided children with a greater chance of success in life by helping them get through the challenges in HS. I was given that chance myself and have seen it given time and time again over the years. When I returned to Rising Stars as the Executive Director, my first directive was that this is what we needed to develop as the foundation of our programs. Over the years, the scholarship programs have expanded, as more donors have seen the immeasurable value they provide families and the very real difference they have made and can continue to make in children’s lives.
Q: How do these scholarships make a difference in the lives of the recipients?
Dan Gimpel, Rising Stars, Inc.: Many of our athletes come from situations that would bar them from participating on any type of yearly programs, summer camps or travel teams that have costs attached to them. Some came from environments that were not just a deterrent to academic success – they were actually life-threatening. We offer these children scholarships in yearly programs that dramatically change their environment and enhance the opportunity of success throughout their formative years.Through these programs, we are also able to identify those children that need academic, social and other forms of support. They are encouraged to apply for our education fund and are given guidance. This combination has helped many children write their own success stories. For instance, we have seen children go from failure and dropout to high honor roll within a year’s time on many occasions; we recently received word that one of our varsity girls, Evelyn, received a scholarship from Binghamton University. Her coach, Rich Slater, wrote to us to thank Rising Stars. Evelyn will be the first person from her small Nigerian village to attend college.Thankfully, her story is not unique and many of the children who participate in the Rising Stars program earn athletic or academic scholarships.
Q: Is there more than one scholarship fund and how do they work?
Dan Gimpel, Rising Stars, Inc.: The first Rising Stars Private Education fund developed to allow at-risk children the chance to attend a private education facility if they were unlikely to succeed in the public school system was developed in honor of Rising Star’s 2012 Man of the Year, Ted Virtue. There are now five different scholarship programs. Scholarship funds are open only to those who participate in the Rising Stars, Inc. programs a minimum of two years and who show continuing dedication to their education. The family of the receiving student must commit to funding a small portion of the child’s tuition and meet with Rising Stars on a regular basis to update their child’s progress. This allows Rising Stars to work with the family as partners and teaches students about personal accountability. Current Rising Stars student athletes in the seventh and eighth grade who wish to attend Catholic school may be eligible for tutoring grants prior to their entrance exam.
Q: How does the student’s family apply for a Rising Stars scholarship and what is the criteria?
Dan Gimpel, Rising Stars, Inc.: The application, which is now available online, is the first step toward a brighter future for many talented – though under-served – children. Students must meet eligibility requirements, including passing the school’s entrance exam, maintaining a high minimum overall grade average and attending school regularly with few absences. Students must complete a short personal narrative and provide documentation, including academic transcripts and financial records. Additionally, students must submit two letters of recommendation and a portfolio of recent school work.