MEET OUR NONPROFITS: Starfinder Foundation

Mar 28, 2016 0 comments
MEET OUR NONPROFITS: Starfinder Foundation

By Leo Dillinger

Originally published in Manayunk Magazine. The Best of Manayunk event on March 24th benefitted both Starfinder and North Light Community Center. Click here to read about North Light.

Established in 2002 by Liverpool native Tony Williams, Starfinder is an organization that gives children from inner city communities the chance to use soccer as a means to learn social values, life skills, and other aspects of youth development. After floating around from various outreach sites for six years, the organization finally found a home in Manayunk in 2008.

“We use soccer as a vehicle. It's a hook. It's a way to grab the kids’ passion,” Executive Director Heidi Warren said. “Our purpose is youth development. So soccer is in service of these greater youth development goals: Helping young people develop the skill sets, the knowledge base, the access to resources and guidance that will help them succeed in their lives. That's what we're here for.”

There are two different types of programs offered at Starfinder. The first and most essential is the Senior Leaders Program. Running from November to June, this program gives roughly 100 high school students the opportunity to expand their knowledge health and fitness, academia, and leadership cultivation. The other program takes place in the summer, where roughly 300 to 350 kids between 6 and 14 have the chance to sharpen their soccer skills and make new friends. Participants of the Senior Leaders Program even serve as mentors, coaches, and role models for the younger kids.

“Our high school students are at a stage where they need tremendous support: figuring out what is this next step after high school, sticking it out through high school, and also moving on successfully to the next stage in their lives,” Heidi said. “It’s about helping them to make those transitions successfully and we found that this was where we could make some of our greatest impact.”

Starfinder is always looking for a helping hand, from donated soccer gear to SAT prep books and access to online courses. But two of the most vital areas of community aid come from volunteerism and financial support. With a small staff of five full-time employees and a limited budget, there is only so much the Starfinder team can do. Currently, they are looking to raise money to improve the facility including a new roof and bathroom renovations. Though these projects don’t directly expand their programming, it gives their kids the atmosphere they need to thrive and succeed.      

“Originally the name was sort of like every child finding the star within themselves that we all can achieve,” Heidi said. “But I'm also thinking about how the stars in the sky are something that we use to navigate. The constellations, the North Star, these are things that are literally guiding lights throughout the ages and our young people are working out their own navigation, their own pathways. They're figuring out their own way with our support. But they are also becoming guiding lights to those young people who follow them.”

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