The Starfish Story
Making A Difference To That One
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can't return to the sea by themselves," the youth replied. "When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water."
The old man replied, "But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I'm afraid you won't really be able to make much of a difference."
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, "It made a difference to that one!"
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)
Our history of advocating for young people stretches over 16 years. Some of our participants are at-risk of long-term system involvement with the child welfare system due to abuse and neglect; the juvenile justice system due to negative social influences; and the welfare system due to the complexities of generational poverty.
We recognize and value the abilities of young people to navigate these tough environments. So for the last 5 years, we have developed and implemented programming that is specifically designed for helping these young people navigate the social-emotional quagmires of the 21st century. Through a trauma-responsive lens we ask, "what did you do to survive" instead of "what's wrong with you?"
Starfish Alliance believes in making a difference to that one by acknowledging the youth experience, through valuing their voice and perspective. Our programs are designed in partnership with young people and their supporters through our Program Advisory Board. We deliver school-based programming targeting these youth.
Our goal is to align and integrate with school districts to increase students positive behaviors, improve their high school graduation rates, and prepare them for post-secondary opportunities including employment, education, enlistment, or entrepreneurship.
Our volunteers and other supporters believe in helping young people navigate their environment and gain exposure to new opportunities.
We facilitate relationship-based program models in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education, Community Connectors Initiative, Columbus City Schools District, South-Western City Schools District, Communities In Schools, and others.
Mission | Vision | Aspiration
To prepare resilient, successful youth who thrive and make positive contributions where they live, learn, and work.
We envision a world in which young people are active decision makers and participants in personal and community transformations.
To create a community of support for young people experiencing barriers to personal and economic well-being through connected educational and workforce ecosystems.
Our Board Members
John Dale (Chair), Windsor Roofing, Royal Family Kids Camp
Kimberly Eckhart (Treasurer), Columbus State Community College
Jeff Davis, Brioso Roastery and Café
John Delia, Housing Joint Venture, Inc.
Curtis Brown, City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods
Brad Wrightsel, Wrightsel & Wrightsel
Zach Gerhardt, ClearPath Benefit Advisors, LLC
Susan Simkins (Development Chair), Brand Relevant Consultancy
Tiffany T. Wright, HandsOn Central Ohio
Jennifer knows first-hand the impact youth based non-profits can have on the community, and personally. Jennifer spent over a year learning about the non-profit landscape as the Assistant to the President/CEO of one of Columbus Foundation's 2016 "5 Non-Profits to Watch," CPO Management.
Prior to joining Starfish Alliance, Jennifer spent 5 years at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in Human Resources with progressive responsibility. There she managed a program that provided developmental and experiential opportunities to undergraduate and law students. Additionally, she was responsible for the implementation and analysis of the agency’s diversity and recruitment plans.
Jennifer's connection with Starfish Alliance is a personal one. As a foster youth herself, she knows the desire to overcome and bounce back from adverse childhood experiences and find your voice. As Executive Director of Starfish Alliance, she is passionate about defending the future of those experiencing trauma in their transient and unstable paths, and believes in their potential to be resilient and rise above the fray.
Nakai has over 20 years of direct experience in the Early Childhood Development field including college level courses in ECD and work experience as a teacher, tutor, cofounder of a local young ladies club, after care owner and operator, and Assistant Director in a child care facility. She has been a parent for over 14 years, 7 of which she has home schooled.
She has a passion for youth, and is eager to bring students into the 21st-century using a unique combination of her education, and coupled with her business background and experience as an entrepreneur and public speaker.
As a Texas native with ties to Maryland and Ohio you can find Nakai rooting for the Cowboys, The Ohio State Buckeyes, and any team with LeBron James.