This morning we spoke with Norma Bajan, the Director of Starfish, about hopes and plans for 2013. Here is what she had to share with us:
What are some things going on at Starfish that are you excited about this year?
This year we have a total of 213 starfish students. At the end of this year, we look forward to successfully graduating 17 more starfish members, making a total of 30 starfish graduates. We are excited about the leadership team we have this year as well. Everyone is very energetic and committed to the mission and vision of Starfish. The families of our students have also demonstrated already a high level of commitment going into this year. This past Sunday, we had our first parent meeting and every single mother was there as well as the majority of fathers. They actively participated in the event, sharing their own hopes and dreams for their daughters, and seemed to really have captured the mission and vision of Starfish.
What are some of the goals that the organization has for 2013?
We hope to strengthen our network of community organizations and institutions in order to best serve our student population. A challenge that we find ourselves faced with is how to best help Starfish graduates find employment in their field as well as continue their studies at the University level. By connecting with other local organizations we hope to develop relationships that will offer internship and job placements for our students now and in the future. Our goal for this next year is to have 50% of all our graduates enrolled in University, on some sort of scholarship, and to have 100% of all our graduates gainfully employed.
Having a strong community network also allows for sharing of resources. We have had many opportunities to receive training and support through other local non-profits. At the end of February we will be leading our first training on the use of popular education in youth development work and will be inviting our network of community organizations to participate.
Youth mentoring can be very challenging work. What keeps you going from year to year?
Working with youth can be a rollercoaster at times. You never know what lies around the corner. But we have the honor of knowing these young adults at a very pivotal point in their lives. They are like sponges; they absorb everything. We have to take advantage of every minute we have with them. This is what we are working to train our mentors in; how to make every moment count. A few months ago one of our first-year students came to my office crying. She told me that she had failed a class and was so disappointed in herself. I encouraged her; I told her I believed in her, that she was very smart and capable. Her mentor also encouraged her and at the end of the next quarter she was given an award for the highest academic marks of her class that term. We were all thrilled!
Each student is a treasure entrusted to us; each one with a jewel inside. We work to mold this student and uncover this jewel. It takes a lot of patience, creativity, and observation of each individual student to do this work. But it’s all worth it in the end knowing that whether these women grow up to be teachers, nurses, doctors, mothers, or wives, no one will be able to take the knowledge that they have received from us and knowledge is power. We look forward to seeing where they end up in 10 years. We are working to develop an alumni group of Starfish graduates so that we will always be in communication and that they will be able to serve as a support to each other.
Posted on January 18, 2013