Scholar Program

Scholar Program

Starfish Initiative is Marion County's only program that combines personalized, no-cost, one-on-one "college coach" mentoring for four continuous years as the foundation for supporting academically-promising high school students facing unearned adversity on their path to becoming college graduates.

During the four-year Starfish Experience, Starfish Scholars receive continuous guidance and one-on-one support from individually matched, college-educated mentors who commit to meeting with their Scholar every other week. These mentoring relationships, which serve as the cornerstone of the Starfish model, not only provide students with a positive role model and consistent source of support in addition to the support of their families, they also help prepare students to navigate college and professional environments.

In addition, Starfish Mentors help each Scholar to effectively prepare for personal and academic success by supporting their active participation in the three 3C’s of the Starfish model:

  1. College Readiness/Access
  2. Career
  3. Character
Ad Astra Per Aspera

Per aspera ad astra is a popular Latin phrase meaning “through hardships to the stars”. 

Frequently Asked Questions - Scholars

Who can be a Starfish Scholar?
Who can be a Starfish Scholar?

~ Be in the 8th grade.

~ Be committed to graduating from high school, getting into college and graduating from college.

~ 21st Century Scholar eligibility. Please see link to eligibility requirements

~ Have at least a middle school GPA of 2.5

All applications are evaluated by an internal admissions committee .

21st Century Scholars is an Indiana state program that provides college tuition support for students who meet grade and household income requirements. Tuition support provided by 21st Century Scholars can be used at any state-supported university in Indiana, or as partial tuition at some private Indiana colleges. However, families must apply for their child during 7th or 8th grade. To learn more about 21st Century Scholars click here. Your acceptance into the 21st Century Scholar program assures us of your college financial need, one part of Starfish Scholar eligibility.

Additional information at

Typically 8th graders learn about Starfish Initiative when their school counselor invites them to a presentation at their school. Most Marion County middle schools are included in our presentation schedule. We also offer some community presentations for those who miss one at school.

Our college success program is based upon a mentoring model that includes one-on-one mentoring from the beginning to the end of high school. That model works amazingly well.

~ 100% of the students who complete our program graduate high school.

~ 84% of our alumni are now college graduates or are still in pursuit of their college degrees.

Because our staff meets every Scholar candidate and every mentor candidate, we pair Mentors with Scholars, but parents and Mentors alike have an opportunity to ask questions and approve the match before it actually happens. Once a match is made, everyone involved – including the Scholar and parent – is committed to making the match work.

Tell us! Sometimes we do hear from a Scholar – or a Mentor – that they believe a match is not working out. Usually, there has been a miscommunication from someone, or the Scholar might feel insecure and unsure of how to act with this new adult in their life. Your Scholar Specialist will help get to the bottom of anything you might think is going on, help you clear anything up, and move ahead.

In very rare cases, a match really doesn’t work out. In those few cases, we make another match.

The vast majority of our matches last all four years of high school and the Mentor and Scholar continue to communicate well into college. But it’s true that sometimes Mentors move away because of a job offer, or (after their two-year initial commitment is complete) they may decide to volunteer in the community in another way. The bottom line is that, as long as a Scholar works hard on his or her grades and stays in the Starfish program, we’ll work hard to make sure they have a great match.

We do not offer scholarships originating with Starfish Initiative, but we do direct our Scholars to a number of sources through which scholarships and other tuition assistance are available.

    Yes! Mentor pairs are the same gender.