How We Do It
Starfinder motivates and challenges children and youth from across Greater Philadelphia through after school and summer programs. We use soccer as the hook in our sports-based youth development practices that promote physical, personal, and academic growth.
We heavily invest in each Starfinder participant, surrounding them with a supportive network of mentors and coaches. We help youth navigate the path to college and careers. Our students come from Olney to Overbrook, speaking over 25 different languages, to form a collaborative community of cultural exchange centered on a universal game.
With the help of generous donors and volunteers, we’re changing the trajectory of our kids’ lives, using soccer to create social change.
Our three areas of emphasis are:
SOCCER + PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
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.
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 SAT prep classes 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.
LEADERSHIP + CHARACTER CULTIVATION
By creating an environment of guided discovery, we give students opportunities to take the lead and to develop their inner strength.
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 coaches and mentors foster a safe atmosphere for young people to stretch and grow, where effort and commitment are valued over outcomes, where students take charge on the field and support their teammates, where kids know it’s OK to make mistakes—and to keep trying to get it right, no matter how many times it takes.
In the end, our students leave us as persons of integrity who understand themselves and the people around them.
Each year, Starfinder works with approximately 400 children and youth. Our student body is ethnically and racially diverse and includes a significant number of new immigrants (representing over 30 countries!), as well as residents of some of the city’s most marginalized communities.