Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meet Emily Specchio...

Emily was truly an amazing and inspirational person. She always had a huge smile on her face and had a fantastic sense of humor. Her laugh was infectious and her passions in life were many.

Born on September 3, 1984 in Morristown, NJ, Emily lived the majority of her life in Chester, NJ where she attended Chester public schools and Mendham High School. After graduating from Mendham in 2002, Emily started her college career at Virginia Tech. She truly flourished at VT and became very involved in many charitable organizations. She pledged Phi Sigma Pi national honor fraternity (PSP) in 2004. Emily absolutely loved both Virginia Tech and her fraternity, and embodied their virtues of Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. Through PSP, Emily raised money and participated in Relay for Life, helped tutor children at Gilbert Linkous Elementary School, helped clean and beautify Virginia Tech’s duck pond, and helped raise money towards PSP’s national charity, Teach for America. Outside of the fraternity, Emily was also very active in the Foundation for Peace, travelling twice to the Dominican Republic to help improve the water quality and health in the areas surrounding Santo Domingo. In addition, Emily was an extremely talented pianist and artist.

Emily graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Tech University on May 13th, 2006. She was a Marketing major in the Pamplin College of Business and had already begun taking graduate courses her senior year at VT. She passed away suddenly and unexpectedly two days later of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. She will forever be missed, yet touched so many people during her 21 years of life. The mission of the Emily Specchio foundation is to celebrate the life of Emily by following her inspirational lead in continuing to support charitable organizations close to her heart. An endowed scholarship at Virginia Tech has been created in her name to give annual scholarships to students with similar interests and passions.


This year, Beth and Jenn have been selected for the Emily C. Specchio Ambassador Program! We really appreciate the mission of the Emily C. Specchio Foundation (http://emilycspecchiofoundation.org/wordpress/mission-statement), and we are excited to work with Marco and the rest of the staff at Emily C. Specchio Foundation this year. Jenn and Beth's experiences in Latin America, working for non-profit organizations and passion for The Starfish Foundation lend themselves naturally to the Ambassador Program. Stay tuned for more updates on Beth's speaking engagements this fall, our fundraising goals, and our experience with the Emily C. Specchio Foundation! To find out more, click here: http://emilycspecchiofoundation.org/wordpress/ambassador-program.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

So what exactly happens at these monthly meetings?

Each month, Jenn meets with the Starfish Scholars (every three months, the parents come too).  Let's do a little agenda, to see what life might be like at a monthly meeting:

12:00pm: Jenn arrives to set up, complete with drinks and snacks for the attendees.

1 pm: Meeting is supposed to begin.

1:25 pm: Meeting finally begins. Icebreaker (dinamica) to get to know each other, like picking a few jellybeans and having to tell certain facts based on what jellybean you chose (red- embarrassing moment, yellow- fun fact, etc.). The human knot is now a favorite!

Scholars untangling the Human Knot in Flor de Bastion (left) and Guasmo.

1:45pm: Catch up on any necessary paperwork or action needed from / for Starfish.

1:50pm: Begin chat on theme of the month. Themes and workshops include Youth Leadership, Family Relations, Study Techniques, Good Health, Intercultural Awareness, Community Development and more!

Scholars brainstormed the definition of leadership.

2:15pm: The students do some "valor agregado" - community service! We at Starfish really believe in the importance of community service, and we love to see our students give back. One month, the Flor de Bastion students organized their own "minga" (cleanup) to continue fixing up the space where they meet!

Community service has ranged from making Mother's Day cards in Guasmo (left) to clearing weeds from the yard in Flor de Bastion (right)!

2:45pm: Fun activity :) Soccer is usually a hit here, or some other type of game. Jenn always makes sure to celebrate the birthdays of the Scholars that month, too! What a special celebration :)

 The May birthday Scholars in Guasmo.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Refuerzo - After-School Program!

The first baby step of our Tutoring program has been taken! The Starfish Scholars themselves set up a mini refuerzo in Flor de Bastion. The 7 who study in the morning have gone every afternoon this week and I was only there Tuesday and briefly on Thursday. I think its great because not only are they doing their homework and helping each other, but the 3 quieter ones have really opened up and I can really see their personalities interacting with the others now. And it came out that Milena is the coordinator of her class too, just like Samantha. What a special group we have!

Students in Flor de Bastion at their after-school (or before-school) impromptu tutoring session.

The space is owned by the uncle of one of the Scholars, but he doesn't live there - what a perfect opportunity for our students to have some space to study!

The students in Flor de Bastion have really started to create a beautiful community. We're so blessed!

--Jenn Zocco
In-Country Representative