In October, the Rising Stars Youth Foundation played in its 11th annual Alzheimer’s All-Star Classic game. According to foundation founder Paul Savramis, these are some of the most prestigious basketball tournament events in the New York area. However, the games are so much more than the culmination of the players’ time on the court.
Paul Savramis has been involved with the Alzheimer’s All-Star Classic for nearly a decade, shortly after meeting with tournament founder Gordon Thomas. He says that Thomas has energy and passion unlike any other and is a former New York Knicks draft pick. Paul and a few select members of his organization decided to become involved with the Alzheimer’s All-Star game after being led through an experience at the LI Alzheimer’s Foundation. He says that being emerged among people affected by the disease spurred his passion to help.
The Alzheimer’s All-Star tournament is fun for the players, but Paul Savramis says these types of games serve a greater purpose, and that is to spread awareness. He explains that Alzheimer’s is a disease that can affect anyone at any time, and here wishes to share more information on the condition.
According to Paul Savramis, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. Is a progressive disease that deteriorates the part of the brain that controls everything from language and thought to memory. Alzheimer’s often progresses quickly, and can lead to a significant reduction in a person’s ability to care for themselves day-to-day.
Paul Savramis also notes that Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly 6 million Americans, and the majority of these people are over age 65.
Paul Savramis is best known as being the founder of the Rising Stars Youth Foundation. But, he was once just a kid from Greece, moving to the United States with his mother Helen.
According to Paul Savramis, he moved from Greece with his mom Helen as a young boy. His mother, a painter and illustrator, was brought in by the Greek archdiocese as an artist. The two made their home in Garrison New York at St. Basel Academy, a home for underserved children.
Paul Savramis spent his formative years being raised in the church and the Academy by his mother, the clergy, and even the other young people with whom he made friends. He says this early experience influenced him heavily as he grew into a young man and decided on what to do with his life.
In the world of sports, it’s not uncommon for a player to get frustrated with their coaches. According to Paul Savramis, young athletes often get put “on the bench” when they fail to live up to their athletic standards or just to allow for healthy team rotation. This is disappointing, to be sure, but it’s also gotten dangerous for the coaches.
Paul Savramis explains that violence against coaches has picked up speed over the last 10 years or so. He points to a recent incident involving Long Island basketball coach Theo Czubakowski. The coach in question pulled a young player out of the game, which offended the mother and a male family member. After refusing to put him back in, the coach was then approached by the family, and violence ensued.
Czubakowski Was punched in the face, thrown to the ground, and then chased to his vehicle, where Paul Savramis says that a player had to intervene so the coach could drive himself to the hospital.
Paul Savramis laments that, unfortunately, incidents like this are all too common. Rising Stars Youth Foundation has policies in place to combat parent-on-coach violence. One of these, he explains, is a zero-tolerance rule. All student-athletes and their families are required to attend a lecture on the topic. Further, they must agree to exhibit positive sportsmanship, even when things don’t go quite the way they’d like.
Paul Savramis also points out that Rising Stars’ students and their families have more motivation than simply scoring points to be on their best behavior during games. He explains that many are enrolled in academic and community programs that they would like to continue to participate in.
To parents getting angry on the court, Paul Savramis has this advice: take a breath, and remember that it is only a game. Anytime one player sits out is an opportunity for another to shine. All players get their time in the spotlight, and it should never be because their parents resorted to violence to make it happen.
For the last 40 years, Paul Savramis has devoted his time and energy into creating one of the most respected basketball nonprofits in the US. He has witnessed thousands of student-athletes come in and out of the program, and, just as important, he’s watched the students form friendships with one another, despite their differences. He has also been blessed to form some friendships of his own and here reflects on a few of these.
Q: Who are some of the most influential people to come through our work with the Rising Stars Youth Foundation over the years?
Paul Savramis: We could literally give you a list several pages long, but a few names that come to mind are Jay Williams, Chuck Everson, Ron Stewart, and our very own executive director Dan Gimpel.
Q: Who is Chuck Everson?
Paul Savramis: Chuck was one of our very first players, and he came through one of our camps during our first year in operation. He stands out at more than 7 feet tall and was on the 1985 Villanova team that took out Georgetown in the national championship. Today, Chuck hosts a podcast, Big East Rewind, and remains a staunch supporter of RSYF.
Q: Tell us about Ron Stewart.
Paul Savramis: Ron was another player that came in early in the foundation’s history. He was with us the same time Chuck Everson was. Ron went on to coach the national team of France. Like Chuck, he continues to support the program.
Q: Which individuals has the Rising Stars Youth Foundation stayed most in contact with over the years?
Paul Savramis: That might be Jay Williams and Dan Gimpel. Jay, who you might know as a former pro basketball player and ESPN host, is an advocate of the program along with his beautiful mother. Dan currently serves as our executive director. Both of these men have helped the Rising Stars Youth Foundation grow into what it is today. They have shaped our program into something meaningful for our families as well as the community as a whole.
Paul Savramis, founder of the Rising Stars Youth Foundation, is pleased to announce that his friend, Ebony Young, is running for NYC District 26 Council member.
Ebony has lived in the Woodside Queens area for the last decade and has raised her daughters here. She has proudly served her community as a nonprofit leader and social responsibility executive throughout Long Island. According to Paul Savramis, Ebony Young has a long-running relationship with Rising Stars.
Paul Savramis says that Ebony Young was who he reached out to in the early days of his organization’s structure. Together, Savramis and Young forged a partnership with the Long Island city YMCA, where Ebony served as director. Her vision led to profound and lasting changes in the lives of the underserved children she chose to serve in those early days.
Paul Savramis explains that Ebony Young worked with Rising Stars as well as other community leaders to develop a tutoring program for Rising Stars participants. Those students already enrolled in the program saw dramatically improved grades and, thus, greater opportunities in high school and college.
Another important contribution that Ebony Young made to both Rising Stars family members as well as the general community is that she worked on programs that help parents and children engage with each other. Her passion for basketball and community service has always shone through in her actions. Because of her, Rising Stars was able to grow and form partnerships with other YMCAs as well as the Boys Club of America.
Paul Savramis wishes to congratulate Ebony Young for pursuing her passions to serve her community. He says that she is a true advocate for change and knows that she will uphold her campaign promise of focusing on problems 1% of the time and on solutions the remaining 99%.
2020 was a year full of undeniable challenges and changes. For Rising Stars Youth Foundation, this meant reinventing a 40-year model to meet both. Here, we asked Rising Stars founder and president Paul Savramis what 2020 was like for the organization and how it was actually able to expand through a crisis.
Q: The pandemic affected everyone and made survival difficult for many sports-based programs. How did you navigate around the fact that basketball was banned in New York?
Paul Savramis: We utilized learning pods. This was a new direction, and we were able to use new programming to better reach our families. The learning pod program launched back in the fall and offered supplemental academic support along with social justice education to many of our youth. Students also had access to a book club to enhance literacy. We continue to use basketball as a motivation, and from September through December, we reached 70 student-athletes from low to middle-income backgrounds.
Jonathan Medley, 11th grade, of Laurelton, attends St. Francis Preparatory School.
Fresh Meadows Private School has three new students thanks to Paul Savramis and his organization, Rising Stars Youth Foundation. Three students, freshmen Tyler Michel and Hayden Cutile and junior Jonathan Medley, will begin the new school year at Fresh Meadows Private School. Here, Savramis discusses a few key points of the students and the scholarships.
Q: What is the Rising Stars Youth Foundation scholarship program?
Paul Savramis: Each year, Rising Stars Youth Foundation provides scholarships, which are made possible by donors, to students who show promise in both athletics and academics. The students, which range from freshmen to seniors, are provided with the funds to attend one of the many prestigious high schools in the New York City area.
Rising Stars Youth Foundation founder Paul Savramis explains how his organization is now using learning pods – arguably the way of the future of education – to help student-athletes both in and out of the classroom.
Q: What are learning pods?
Paul Savramis: Learning pods are like remote classrooms. Each pod is available certain days of the week to a select group of students. Currently, RS has six pods throughout NYC and the surrounding area and caters to approximately 75 students.
Q: Why are they important?
Paul Savramis: Rising Stars has always worked toward being a caregiver for its students and their families. When the pandemic hit, many of the young people in our programs were suddenly thrust into being home 100% of the time. As schools open in the most unusual of ways, having pods available acts as both stability and an opportunity to interact with friends and strangers alike.
Paul Savramis recently announced that Rising Stars Youth Foundation had formed a partnership with community support agency Forestdale. In the following brief Q&A session, the RSYF founder answers a few questions about the organization and what this partnership might mean to the children in its care.
Q: What is Forestdale?
Paul Savramis: Forestdale is a family services organization. It was founded in 1854 as the Brooklyn Industrial School Association and Home for Destitute Children. Originally, its mission was to teach trade skills to children with no family support. Today, Forestdale serves as a child welfare agency, and it is the only one of its kind in Queens. It works within the foster care system to ensure the well-being of the most vulnerable children.
Rising Stars Youth Foundation receives dozens of applicants for its intern position each year. According to Paul Savramis, many of these young men and women looking to volunteer or their time are highly qualified. However, one applicant, Izzy DeFrancesco, really stood out.
Q: Who is Izzy DeFrancesco?
Paul Savramis: Izzy is a student at the University of Delaware College. She is pursuing a bachelors of arts, and her majors are in Women’s Studies and Communications. On paper, DeFrancesco has an impeccable set of credentials, including being a Dean’s List scholar with a 4.0 GPA. While these accolades caught everyone’s attention, it was this young woman’s personality that really stood out.
Q: What makes DeFrancesco such a strong candidate and good intern?
Paul Savramis: Her vibrance and energy. She has a zest for life, and she is not afraid to attack problems with a smile. One thing that truly stands out is her creativity and ability to breathe new life into everything we’ve thrown at her.