The Starfish Foundation provides scholarship and mentoring to youth living in extreme poverty in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The idea developed after co-founders Beth and Jenn volunteered for a year in Ecuador, where they volunteered at a shelter for former street kids. A lot of these kids had no family 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, so they just never finish. Beth and Jenn also noticed this same struggle amongst many of their other neighbors and friends. The money just isn't there. 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.
Who We Are
Our mission is to keep at-risk Latin American youth on the path to an educated, independent lifestyle. The Starfish Foundation, Inc. provides scholarships and guidance to high school students in extreme poverty who wish to continue their education, encouraging and inspiring them to reach their dreams. We strive to keep young people off the street and empower them to overcome difficult life circumstances without falling into the seemingly inevitable cycle of poverty.
Our vision is a community where underprivileged Latin American youth are empowered to create a better future for themselves through continuing education.
We believe in the power of dreams and the hope that comes from someone listening to your dreams. We believe that everyone deserves the right to achieve these dreams through continued education. We value honesty, determination, perseverance and hope in the face of difficult challenges. We believe that with support and encouragement, all youth can achieve their dreams. Most of all, we believe in the power of making a difference for many, one by one.
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Emily Felsenthal is the co-founder and Executive Director of Victor’s Vision. As a student at Villanova University, Emily spent considerable time living and volunteering throughout Latin America, growing a passion for Latin American culture and working with underprivileged youth. After a week in Chulucanas in 2009, Emily made a personal commitment to better the lives of the children she’d met there; so, in March of her senior year she started Victor’s Vision. Emily graduated from Villanova University in May 2010 with a degree in Spanish and Peace and Justice Studies. Now, Emily is working for UrbanFuture a non-profit that works with students in the St. Louis public school system.
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Matt Nespoli founder and president of Water for Waslala is currently a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, MA. Matt received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2012, with a focus on corporate sustainability strategy. Prior to MIT, Matt worked as a public sector strategy consultant in NYC, and as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. Matt earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University in 2004, receiving the Medallion Award for academic excellence in the field of Economics. Matt continues to direct Water for Waslala part-time together with the Board and other partners.
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