Starfinder is a sports-based youth development organization using soccer to inspire social change and transform the lives of youth from underserved neighborhoods in the Philadelphia region.
Our vision is a Philadelphia region where the playing field is level, and all kids are thriving. Through soccer, mentoring, and an environment that challenges and supports, Starfinder helps youth who live in Philadelphia’s underserved neighborhoods cultivate their athletic, creative, and academic talents and chart a pathway to a bright future.
Starfinder combines soccer with positive youth development to create a powerful, holistic support system for youth that both challenges and supports them to reach their fullest potential—physically, mentally, and emotionally. We use the community-building power of soccer to offer a deep experience through which participants learn skills, gain confidence, and develop resilience to overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
- All kids deserve to learn, grow, and thrive. Every young person deserves the support systems and access to opportunity that will help them achieve their full potential, regardless of their race, religion, gender, economic background, sexual orientation, immigration status, or other individual differences.
- A strong community is our greatest asset. A sense of belonging is a powerful thing. Strong relationships and deep connections are the foundation upon which positive identity and purpose are built. We engage youth in creating an intentional culture that invites, challenges, and supports them to be their best selves.
- Young people have a great deal to contribute. We value young people’s life experiences, talents, and abilities. By identifying, amplifying, and activating their strengths, we help youth become the next generation of leaders.
- Soccer is a powerful vehicle for youth development. Its global popularity engages young people from all backgrounds. The valuable skills learned in “The Beautiful Game” – such as hard work, discipline, and teamwork – become assets for life beyond the game.
- Play makes life better. Play helps us connect with each other, be more present, be more creative, and relieve stress. Fun is a great motivator and confidence builder. Through play, we build stronger relationships and improve our quality of life.
What We Do:
Starfinder motivates and challenges children and youth of all ages from across Greater Philadelphia through after school, weekends, and summer programs. Our youth come from all over the Philadelphia region, speaking over 25 different languages, to form a collaborative community of cultural exchange using the universal language of soccer. With the help of generous donors and volunteers, we help kids change the trajectory of their lives, using soccer to create social change.
Our three areas of emphasis are:
1. Health & Physical Fitness
Research has shown again and again that regular physical activity isn’t just good for the body. It increases focus, improves behavior, and boosts academic performance.
But low income students have a 60% lower participation rate in sports than their middle-income peers. That number is even lower for girls and minorities.
Soccer’s global appeal, physically demanding nature, and minimal resource requirements make for a fun, practical sport to deliver Starfinder’s powerful program to build healthy, life-long learners and leaders.
At Starfinder, we provide highly skilled coaching for players at all levels, instruction in physical fitness, and ample opportunity for friendly competition, bringing together a diverse group of students drawn by soccer’s universal language.
2. Future Focus
Whether a student needs extra help in a specific subject, or just guidance in general study strategies, we provide resources to meet each student’s individual needs during daily academic sessions and through one-on-one mentor support. Surrounded by motivated peers, our youth form a culture of achievement and enjoy access to opportunities they wouldn’t get elsewhere.
From workshops and campus visits to guidance through the college application process, students in our high school program get an extra edge as they learn to apply themselves and to dream big.
It’s hard work reversing the score in a city where 36% of public school 6th graders fail to graduate from high school on time. But it’s rewarding to witness our students’ growing aspirations to tackle new challenges, graduate from high school, and continue their education.
3. Social Emotional Well-Being
By co-creating an emotionally, physically, and culturally safe space, building healthy relationships, and facilitating guided discovery, we give students opportunities to take the lead and to develop internal and external assets.
At Starfinder, we give kids a voice and help them to learn by doing: they weigh in on policies, plan events, and offer their feedback on programming. Through workshops and other activities, we guide our youth as they develop life skills like effective communication, discipline, and critical thinking.
Our coach-mentors value effort and commitment and foster an atmosphere where young people feel safe to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again.